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Organizational Change

By Eduardo Lan People in organizations without a strong safety culture often believe that safety is somebody else's job. When asked who owns safety around here, they may point to the organization’s leaders or to somebody else other than themselves. In their mind, they may see their role as limited to production or construction and honestly believe that safety is the purview of the safety department or professional. This level of ownership shifts with a higher degree of safety culture maturity, where people understand that they have a role to play in the creation of a safe workplace. In such workplaces,

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By Josh Williams, Ph.D. Football coaches like the Patriots’ Bill Belichick make more than $10M per year trying to guide their teams to an NFL championship. Ridiculous sums of money? Maybe. But there are lessons learned from elite coaches that can be applied to safety culture improvement.   Coaches spend countless hours preparing their weekly game plans. This includes reviewing past game tape to identify strengths and shore up weaknesses and properly preparing for next week’s opponent. It’s an ongoing process of performance review, planning, execution, and re-evaluation.  Safety culture assessments and strategic planning are similar processes (minus the game tape and weekly schedules).

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By Josh Williams, Ph.D. There are no shortcuts to safety culture improvement. However, if there was a safety culture improvement ‘hack’ it would be getting and using more employee input for safety. One of the best ways of doing this is through safety suggestions from front-line employees. This should be done both formally (e.g., peer checks, safety committees) and informally (1-1 conversations). Many of the best and most practical safety ideas come from front-line employees. Also, getting more employee input leads to better decision-making and increased front-line discretionary effort for safety. For example, at one manufacturing facility in Southwest Virginia, the safety

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By Josh Williams, Ph.D. Organizational safety communication is a key litmus test for healthy (or unhealthy) safety cultures. The best organizations have ongoing, open feedback throughout the organization. Weaker organizations have one-way traffic with communications (not getting employee input), insufficient psychological safety, and disorganized messaging. It is common for us to meet with EHS leaders who will provide pages of safety improvements over the last few months. However, when we speak with field employees, many are unable to list a single improvement they’ve seen. The hard work of making changes was made but the (seemingly) easy task of advertising them was not.

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By Eduardo Lan When it comes to assessing an organization’s safety culture, we often look at the organization’s leaders, the behaviors of workers and employees, and the rules, policies and procedures. These are all important pieces of the puzzle, but they do not paint a full picture. According to Michael D. Watkins (2013), “While there is universal agreement that (1) it [organizational culture] exists, and (2) that it plays a crucial role in shaping behavior in organizations, there is little consensus on what organizational culture actually is, never mind how it influences behavior and whether it is something leaders can change.” When working

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By Madison Hanscom, PhD As companies plan and administer major changes or interventions to improve occupational health and safety, a participatory approach can very well determine success or failure. When employees are involved in the process, their voices shape the program into something that is a better fit for the people and the culture. There is no reason a group of leaders far removed from the average worker should be creating change initiatives in isolation. This can lead to a program that is out of touch with what is needed by the people, and it can also hurt buy-in and momentum.

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