Culture by Design

Safety culture defines & determines safety performance

culturebydesign-1What is Safety Culture?

An organisation’s culture is its shared values, symbols, behaviours, and assumptions. Culture describes “the way we do things around here”, and is critical to determining the behaviours of its people. An organisations safety culture, on the other hand, refers to “how we do things around here” when it comes to health and safety. The way safety is perceived, valued and prioritised in an organisation, not only has an obvious and direct effect on accident rates, it also impacts on productivity, reliability, competitiveness and, most certainly, employee morale.


Why Safety Culture Matters

The term safety culture was first used to describe the Chernobyl Disaster of 1986. Since Chernobyl, a number of other major disasters around the world, including the recent Deepwater Horizon incident, have highlighted the influence of a range of organisational factors, which affect safety performance. All the consequent inquiries identified ‘safety culture’ deficiencies as having a causative impact. It is not just major hazard industries that need to be concerned about safety culture. Organisations of all sizes from all industry sectors, as well as parts of large organisations, have realised that an effective and positive safety culture makes safety an asset. In turn, this generates positive results throughout their business. Safety is seen as the double positive – presence of wellbeing – rather than the double negative – absence of harm.


Safety Culture or Safety Climate?

These days, safety culture and safety climate are used interchangeably. They are regarded as operating in tandem to inform how an organisation can improve its approach to safety and its safety bottom line. Essentially, safety climate describes the more ‘visible’ or ‘observable’ attributes of an organisation’s safety culture and consequently measuring those attributes provides valuable indicators of the underlying culture.


Fundamental pillars of a Positive Safety Culture

Any positive safety culture must be based on a universal, and genuinely held belief in Zero Harm as the fundamental uncompromising never-ending safety objective of an organisation. Of all the safety beliefs and values, it is the most important foundational pillar.

Another important belief is that is that all safety arrangements need to be focussed on creating an environment where everyone wants to improve, not just being told or forced to improve. Research indicates that involvement and engagement at all levels in an organisation is critical in developing these ‘wants-based’ beliefs.

All traditional safety-based activities of inductions, risk assessments, investigations, inspections, audits, pre-start-checks, interactions, observations, safety measures, safety reports, etc., can become positive features of a positive safety culture increasing conversations, active leadership, involvement and engagement.

At Soteris, we offer a range of services to assist our clients to develop and maintain a positive safety culture:

  • Safety climate assessments using contemporary and effective measures using research-based criteria;
  • Training and development in building a mature positive safety climate and culture;
  • Positive processes and tools for personal improvements such as Soteris’ 5 A’s;
  • Assisting in resolving confusion and misunderstanding within an organisation regarding the difference between ‘zero harm’ and ‘zero risk’. Through doing so, everyone in the organisation develops a clear understanding that Zero Harm – Today and Tomorrow, is an achievable inspirational objective and not just an aspirational hope.
  • Assisting in developing core safety beliefs (such as defining and agreeing on what concepts of “safe” and “tolerable risk” actually mean on a day-to-day working basis).

In addition to assisting your organisation to realise a mature positive safety culture, we can work with you to achieve a positive organisational culture, which will support and embed your safety culture.

To achieve lasting cultural change and eliminate safety incidents – today and tomorrow – the Soteris Culture by Design program is supported by our three other programs – Active Leaders, Coaching Excellence and Infinity.

Contact us for more information on our Infinity program.