The concept of having a safety culture is often tossed around as a panacea for all that ails an industrial or construction site. Exactly how it happens can be at best, a puzzlement and at worst, a disaster leading to all manner of problems. At its root, it is an honest attempt to increase fact finding and decrease adversarial relations between all of the interested parties. It values the information to be obtained from an incident far more than the routine response of progressive disciplinary actions. It looks to find out as many of the “Whys” behind an unwanted event and to build that into better engineering, system design, training and future events.
It DOES require that we rethink how we manage the investigation of incidents and how we include employees in these events. OFTEN this means that disciplinary action is usually only appropriate in deliberate risk taking where the employee put himself or others in jeopardy. This is rarely the case. The other far more common situations occur with:
(1) lack of adequate engineering and systems creation and
(2) a miscalculation on the part of the employee on what the level of risk was or simply a human error where penalties would not solve the problem.
This approach, which I strongly endorse, helps build a transparent safety culture that is a reporting and a learning culture. It requires the building of trust, communication skills and the strong DESIRE TO BE EFFECTIVE. It is used by the Federal Aeronautics Administration and increasingly by medical organizations seeking to cut the number of iatrogenic injuries in hospitals.
I have conducted trainings in this concept as it relates to safety culture with a number of clients. If sustained by the organization, the result has been dramatic increases in what is known about their work processes, their own role in setting the stage for an untoward event and a gain in positive contributions by everyone involved.
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