A safety culture requires leadership at all levels of an organisation. It is essential that top management or business owners show their commitment to safety, but it is the people on the ground who have to deliver on it. Team leaders and supervisors are also essential leaders when it comes to health and safety.
In the Navy, admirals decide where to move the fleet. Commodores and captains are responsible for each of their ships. Similarly, in business the board/CEO provide the strategic direction, and the Team Leaders must be empowered to build their teams and lead them to deliver on the strategy.
If safety is part of the strategy (and I assume it is) then leaders at all levels of the organisation are critical to delivering it. Team leaders need to have a clear understanding of their responsibilities, be engaged in developing processes and systems, involved in solving problems and empowered to implement solutions.
Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast
As Peter Drucker tells us “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Is your company culture focussed on safety?
There are many paths to building a company culture, and many activities deliver on several benefits. I believe there are three core elements required for developing a positive safety culture. These are education, engagement and empowerment.
When it comes to safety, managers and employees alike need to understand their legal responsibilities and be able to relate that to their workplace and the work they do. They need the skills to be able to recognize and define problems and have the tools to resolve issues that arrive. Educating them will focus their energy in the right place.
When people understand how safety relates to them, they start to take notice. They need to be shown how it will help them by making their job easier in the long run, how it will protect them and the people they care about and solve problems relevant to them.
Studies have shown that empowerment is weakest in small business but is still an issue in medium and large businesses as well. Yet people get fired up when they know they can do something to fix a problem, improve a process, save a life. It is critical that line management are empowered to make a difference in the organisation in which they work.
If you are struggling to develop the safety culture you desire and need to succeed in business whilst keeping your people safe, think about whether you have addressed these three elements.