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Safety Culture

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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By Josh Williams Ph.D Background Organizational leaders are increasingly turning to Human Performance (HP) principles to improve safety culture and performance. Unlike the old “command and control” engineering approaches, HP emphasizes the importance of improving environmental contingencies to encourage safe work practices. In fact, HP philosophy holds that human error is inevitable and is a predictable outcome of human beings operating in flawed environments (Conklin, 2012). Basic HP tenants include (Williams & Roberts, 2018): Error-likely situations are predictable, manageable, and preventable. Most incidents are influenced by system factors like confusing procedures, excessive production pressure, faulty tools/equipment, insufficient personnel, and ineffective training.When SIFs occur, workers

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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 Josh Williams, Ph.D Improving safety culture should be an ongoing mission for leaders. In the last blog, best practices from the field were shared regarding minor injury reporting, employee input with rules, active caring messaging, proper incentives use, wellness, and mentoring. In this blog, “not so best” practices will be presented. These are pitfalls to avoid based on real-world examples, including misapplied blanket policies, complacency issues, setting poor safety examples, outcome-based incentives, and sapping personal control. Misapplied Blanket Policies Some corporate safety policies are critical to prevent SIFs. Others may seem frivolous and non-applicable. For example, one auto manufacturing facility over-reacted to

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