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  • Writer's pictureLeverage Safety

Building a Culture of Safety Excellence: Guiding Principles for Organizations

Updated: Jul 18

In today's fast-paced and evolving world, organizations face increasing challenges when it comes to establishing a culture of safety excellence. As companies grow in size, the task of aligning everyone's efforts towards safety becomes more complex. However, by focusing on certain guiding principles, organizations can overcome these challenges and foster a culture where safety is ingrained in every aspect of their operations. In this article, we will explore essential guidelines from the perspective of a safety consultant to help organizations achieve safety excellence.

Guideline 1: Beware of the "Magic Formula"

When it comes to safety, there is no one-size-fits-all solution or instant fix. Just as exercise cannot be replaced by a pill, safety excellence cannot be attained through a prepackaged program. It requires unwavering dedication and constant effort from all levels within the organization. While predefined programs and methodologies can offer assistance, they should be viewed as tools that complement the ongoing development of your safety culture. Remember, what works for one organization may not work for another, so adaptability is key.

Guideline 2: Ensure Positive Consequences for Involvement

To foster a sense of ownership and engagement in safety, organizations must provide positive incentives for individuals to participate actively. Programs-of-the-Month or frequent initiatives without input from those affected by the change often discourage involvement. To address this, it is essential to recognize and appreciate discretionary effort in safety-related activities. By creating an environment that stimulates internal motivation, organizations can expect individuals to go beyond minimal requirements, knowing their contributions are valued.

Guideline 3: If Leaders Don't Lead, Followers Don't

Follow Leadership plays a crucial role in establishing a culture of safety excellence. As an organization grows, it becomes increasingly important for leaders at all levels to embrace their responsibility for safety. Safety professionals should act as advisors, internal consultants, facilitators, and coaches, rather than the sole process owners. Leaders must define behaviorally-based roles, responsibilities, and expectations (RREs) that are observable and coachable. By holding subordinate leaders accountable for safety and exhibiting behavioral integrity, leaders send a powerful message that safety is a priority for everyone.

Guideline 4: Culture Change Happens Best from Within

To foster ownership and sustainability in safety culture change, organizations should involve internal change agents in the design and implementation of improvement strategies. By empowering employees to contribute their creative input, organizations create a sense of ownership and intrinsic motivation. When employees are actively involved in shaping the change, they are more likely to embrace it as their own. Leaders should focus on enabling the change rather than imposing it, allowing the culture to evolve from within the organization.

Establishing a culture of safety excellence requires a strategic approach that focuses on influential motivation rather than pressure. By customizing change methods and tactics to fit the existing safety management system and culture, organizations can achieve higher levels of ownership and involvement. Consistency between leaders' actions and words builds behavioral integrity, reinforcing the importance of safety to all employees. Finally, organizations must remember that while change can be influenced from above, it is most effectively reinforced from within. By adhering to these guidelines, organizations can cultivate a safety attitude that transcends mere compliance, creating a workplace where safety is embraced willingly and pursued passionately.

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