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Enhancing a Culture of Safety

11/11/14

In our never-ending quest to instill and enhance a safety culture, we have been collaborating and brainstorming with other professionals to discuss their experience in what has been successful and what hasn’t in working with organizations in implementation. One conversation I had earlier today with a renowned US Government Safety Expert, really had me thinking and I thought it may be pertinent to share some agreed upon insights. My conversational partner is a distinguished Manager of a DOT Human Factors program of long years of service.

 Before I share these insights, let me give you a brief background on my experience. I have spent over 20 years working in the field of organizational alignment and engagement with our proprietary survey analysis tools. More recently, we have uncovered the strong relationship between workforce engagement and workplace safety. We are starting by looking at a safety culture through 4 Dimensions: Overall safety Culture; Safety Threats; Safety Defenses and Safety Engagement.  (The NEB framework and Employee Engagement Research by the Conference board were our resources.)

 Here are points of agreement:

 1. You can’t improve a safety culture without building it on top of a foundation of Engagement.  Engagement Defined:

 Employee engagement is the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral relationship people have with their jobs, co-workers, and organizations, and the discretionary effort and enthusiasm they put into their daily work (i.e., job satisfaction, work motivation, and organizational commitment).

 2. Leadership needs to think and execute engagement first, see the benefits of an engaged workforce, and then ingrain safety as one component of engagement. The Engagement research of the Conference Board provides an excellent approach to both understanding and using engagement to better the workplace by all measures.  As a bonus from “Engagement for Safety”, engagement is directly related to profit and people performance.

 3. Safety requires a formal safety management systems in place so people not only know the rules, but are held accountable to follow them.

 4. Safety is still viewed as an expense item by leadership, not a revenue producing item. More often than not, senior leadership offers lip service to the safety, but subjugates safety to the profit incentive.  Profit is still overriding and safety hazards are but a cost of doing business. 

 5. The most pressing transformative attribute is still TRUST as it pertains to a safety culture.  If it’s not critical to senior leadership, it will not be critical to middle leadership nor the workforce. A huge opportunity is created when leadership attends training with everyone else.

 6. Enterprise implementation of safety is the major barrier. It’s easy to talk about safety but how do you get the people to internalize safety so that a culture of prevention becomes an overriding principle. Without an enterprise implementation system, safety is but conversation.

 I encourage you to join the discussion on safety and lend your views and opinions, especially about any effective implementation system that produced safety results at

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