A phrase search in google for "safety culture" results in 240 million hits in less than half a second…it's got to be an important phrase…

There are plenty of definitions for safety culture: Like in most organizations within the industry, safety culture is measured as a whole…not by the commitment of one person, one team or one rig. A true safety culture is not necessarily a place where accidents and incidents never happen. But it is a place where people routinely do their very best to do the right things for the right reasons.

A culture can also be described as the beliefs and behaviors handed down from one generation to the next, with each new employee and contractor representing the next generation of the company. This can be an opportunity, or a continuing challenge as exemplified by the findings from a major industrial incident which found, "…hazard training was largely passed down by experience from others. Sometimes this guidance was poor, perhaps due to an element of complacency…"

In a newspaper article, Dr. Najmedin Meshkati, professor of civil, environmental and system engineering at the University of Southern California, said, "A (strong) safety culture creates the necessary framework within an organization – whose development and maintenance is the responsibility of top management – and the attitude of staff at all different levels in responding to and benefiting from the framework."

When building such a culture, a company needs to create the environment which enables safety to be a core value and, more importantly, reside within the hearts of the individuals who work there. It should be something everyone practices both at work and in their personal lives.

By analyzing our existing culture we are able to see that we have allowed conditions and events to drive our actions. This results in a very reactive leadership style which is subject to short term improvements, and lacking in long term sustainability. We have not been focused in the areas that will create lasting improvement.

To obtain long term sustainable cultural changes, a proactive "bottom up" leadership style must be obtained in which every supervisor / manager has a sound understanding of the capabilities of the employees under their supervision. This will result in the formation of a team effort culture that is clearly focused on problem solving and long term solutions.

But how does a company build this type culture? What follows are the practical steps one company took in order to begin their cultural transformation and, more importantly, how this initiative helped substantially reduce their overall Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR).

You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.