Conall

Safety Culture

By Josh Williams, Ph.D. Strong safety rules, policies and procedures are integral to incident prevention. While the topic of “rules” isn’t scintillating, it’s extremely important to get it right with procedures. It’s also easy to mess up if you’re not careful. For example, one auto manufacturing facility over-reacted to an employee eye injury by mandating safety glasses in all areas of the plant even where glasses really weren’t needed. This is sometimes called the shotgun effect. Although most employees begrudgingly wore their safety glasses, several employees got creative and popped the lenses out of their safety glasses and simply wore the

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By Eduardo Lan Recognizing employees for the good work they do is a powerful way to strengthen desired behavior. When we are aware of the things people do right and point them out to them, they are more inclined to repeat them. This happens because people feel seen and appreciated, a desire and need for all human beings, and because they can more easily identify said behaviors (2014). When the recognition relates to safety, we are promoting a culture of safety ownership where people work safely out of desire rather than obligation. This is known as discretionary effort, and it represents the

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By Josh Williams, Ph.D. Close call reporting is a key piece of a robust safety culture. The term often used in safety circles is “near miss” which is a complete misnomer. George Carlin famously joked that two planes almost hitting each other is actually a near hit and that a near miss would technically be an actual collision (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDKdvTecYAM). Tightening up your close call reporting keeps people safe. Organizations with a strong safety culture effectively support reporting near hits to prevent future and more serious reoccurrences. There should be an ongoing, active cycle of reporting close calls, making any system changes for

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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. Improving supervisory safety leadership is critical for safety culture advancement. And to be sure, being in a supervisory role is one of the toughest jobs in organizational settings. And one of the most important when it comes to safety. The term “where the rubber meets the road” is often applied to this level of leadership because supervisors carry out the vision and directives from senior leaders but also manage the difficult day-to-day challenges with front-line employees doing the work. For years, we have talked about the dangers of old-school leadership. Decades ago, the norm for field leaders was

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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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