23 Aug Are culture based safety workshops still relevant?
So what do we mean by culture based safety? Let’s look at each word and what they mean.
- Culture: the shared values, beliefs and attitudes of a given group, which show themselves as behaviour.
- Based: the main principle or starting point.
- Safety: people not getting injured or killed.
Delivered as a workshop, culture based safety is about setting, understanding and truly believing in an organisation’s values, beliefs and attitudes to safety, including its behaviour. Workshops are an opportunity to focus participants’ minds on the most important asset the organisation has; its employees, and what each of them must do to keep themselves and others safe.
Although everyone has a part to play in this, the first step to culture change, must be taken by directors, managers and supervisors (collectively referred to as leaders). They decide the way forward, inspire and encourage others to follow. Any individual can be a positive role model, and is therefore a leader, if they inspire and encourage others. However, even they start to become negative role models if their direct leaders are not supportive or resist change.
So how do workshops change culture?
Culture based safety workshops aren’t focused on procedures, risk assessments, training documents or legislation. They’re more about relighting desire and passion in every single person to want to go home uninjured at the end of every working day and help others do the same.
I’m not suggesting that workshops only focus on people. Every organisation still needs procedures, risk assessments, training and legislation to guide its activities. But does all this paperwork alone keep people safe? I’d say no. What really keeps people safe is their behaviour when performing a task.
For example, a manager may chose to ignore a piece of legislation and not take the relevant steps needed or an individual may choose not to follow procedure and use a piece of equipment incorrectly. If these actions lead to an injury, is it through fault of the legislation, the procedure or the training? No, it’s down to the behaviour of individuals, who are driven by their attitudes, values and beliefs. And these, as we know, collectively define the culture of the organisation.
People need an appropriate forum that stimulates them to openly challenge and critique their individual attitudes, values, beliefs and behaviours towards safety versus those required by the organisation’s vision, then agree on what’s needed to achieve them. In my experience, culture based safety workshops are an ideal forum for this review and reflect process in a way that encourages people to make changes, rather than being forced to make them by their senior leaders.
To be truly successful, all leaders must believe in and work towards the same safety excellent culture and adopt the relevant safety excellent behaviours to create and maintain this culture. This isn’t something you can buy off the shelf or create overnight, it needs close monitoring, support and nurturing to grow, mature and flourish.
Culture based safety workshops are part of this growth process. They help leaders to take a step back, think about what safety means and agree on the steps needed to achieve it. In basic terms, it gets them to focus on the safety culture they want and the relevant attitudes, values, beliefs and behaviours needed by everyone involved.
So are culture based safety workshops still relevant? I’d say yes, most definitely. But what do you think?