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  • Writer's pictureLeverage Safety

Achieving Safety Excellence: The Path to Strategic Success

Updated: Jul 18

Many organizations lack a clear safety strategy, while those that do often face conflicting priorities between safety and production. A comprehensive approach is needed to achieve safety excellence that addresses multiple elements and aligns them toward a common goal. This article will explore the key elements of safety strategy and how they contribute to creating a culture of excellence.

Moving Beyond Descriptive Models

Popular safety models like The Bradley Curve provide valuable insights into safety culture and the journey toward excellence. However, these models often fall short in providing a roadmap for achieving the desired outcomes. While culture is essential, it cannot be improved in isolation. It is influenced by several other factors that must be addressed systematically.

The Essential Elements of Safety Excellence

Through our consulting experience, we have identified four major and two minor elements contributing to safety excellence. The major elements are strategy, leadership, employee engagement, and culture. The minor elements are the role of safety professionals and safety metrics. While safety culture is crucial, the other elements profoundly impact it. Focusing solely on culture without considering the broader context is ineffective.

The Importance of Strategy

A successful safety strategy must be specific, yet flexible enough to adapt to changing realities. If the strategy fails to evolve and support desired culture changes, the culture itself remains stagnant. Strategy should also influence leadership styles, fostering the desired cultural state. Command-and-control leadership styles hinder the evolution towards an interdependent culture. Leaders must shift their approach to lead by example and actively support the desired cultural changes.

The Role of Safety Professionals

Safety professionals, too, must evolve their roles to facilitate cultural change. As workers become more knowledgeable about safety, professionals must transition from directors to providers, supporters, and expert resources. Unfortunately, many safety departments are understaffed and caught up in reactive activities, hindering their ability to evolve alongside the culture. To truly make progress, safety professionals must strive for independence and alignment with the organization's evolving needs.

Engaging Employees in Safety Efforts

Employee engagement plays a vital role in safety excellence. Organizations often express a desire for increased engagement, but fail to define what it truly entails or implement specific measures to achieve it. Depending on the current state of the culture, engagement strategies should focus on fostering a sense of belonging, creating buy-in, providing hands-on participation opportunities, and ultimately fostering ownership. Ownership is about connecting with the heart, not just the head, and aligning safety goals with personal well-being.

Understanding the Progression of Culture

Culture is a byproduct that cannot be directly impacted. It is controlled through other factors, as highlighted by the stages of progression—dependent to independent to interdependent. While these stages were originally applied to individuals, they can be adapted to describe cultural progression. However, managing the other elements to strategically facilitate cultural growth is crucial. Understanding the current state of the culture is vital to ensure efforts are appropriately tailored to the organization's specific needs.

The Importance of Measurement

Measurement is an essential management tool for gauging progress and ensuring desired outcomes are being achieved. Lagging indicators are commonly used to measure success or failure but are insufficient for achieving safety excellence. More sophisticated metrics are required, utilizing a balanced scorecard approach that considers the interplay between different metrics. Organizations can gain deeper insights into their progress and make informed decisions by understanding the algorithms and relationships between these metrics.

To achieve safety excellence, organizations must develop a comprehensive safety strategy that addresses multiple elements and aligns them towards a common goal. Safety cannot exist in isolation from other organizational priorities. By strategically managing strategy, leadership, employee engagement, culture, the role of safety professionals, and safety metrics, organizations can embark on a transformative journey towards safety excellence. Let us embrace a holistic approach to safety strategy and pave the way for a culture of excellence and continuous improvement.

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