Over the years, various authors have put forth cultural maturity models for organizations to describe the pathway towards high levels of safety performance. While these models are readily accepted and viewed as benchmarks for assessments of the state of safety culture, what lies beneath the premise, and what may we be searching for? We now know through both the study of organizations employee attitudes and brain science that individuals respond well to having a say in their work output and environment. If we apply the lens of employee engagement to a typical culture maturity model, it will look different. Ideally, every employee would feel empowered to identify hazards and be a party to the development of risk mitigation solutions. If we ask employees to participate on discreet occasions in observation programs, toolbox talks, and safety committees, does that guarantee full engagement? An employee who is fully engaged in safety is looking for it beyond those moments and may be better prepared to manage risk.

A new model looking at employee engagement and active participation in workplace safety would move along a continuum. Historically there has been a lack of regulatory guidance and legislative framework to support active participation, leaving individuals and organizations to make their judgments and actions. From there, governments implemented laws and regulations that formed the basis of expectations. Industry and companies then realized that management systems would help integrate the regulations with their specific processes to form a complementary set of requirements. We then understood that safety leadership from supervisors was needed to ensure workers understood and followed the process and adhered to the rules. Finally, we began asking the front line to participate, and ultimately own responsibility for looking out for themselves and each other. Each step must be built on the previous as it would be challenging to create a safety culture in the absence of external and internal requirements or safety leadership from supervisors. This continuum helps drive the maturity from the belief that "They own safety" to "We own safety" and encourage behavior beyond discreet point-in-time activities to a more complete and engaging program and workforce.

This different way of looking at cultural maturity through the lens of what should be expected of supervisors and employees may help organizations develop plans and strategies to achieve an incident and injury-free workplace.

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