Tribe Culture Change | Inside tips to get more from your safety culture change programme
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16 Jun Inside tips to get more from your safety culture change programme

Kohler Mira gained a dramatic 78% reduction in their incident rate over the last seven years in partnership with JOMC. And the number of workdays lost to injury at the company has decreased by 88%.

You’ll recognise the Mira brand from their showers found in homes, schools, hospitals and industry. They’re the UK’s largest and leading manufacturer of engineered showers, enclosures and accessories.

Ant pushing a boulder up an incline

We interviewed Martin Bull, environmental health and safety officer at Kohler Mira, to offer you insightful advice from the front-line on building a successful safety culture change programme.

“It’s a challenge; convincing people to do the right thing… that safety doesn’t have to get in the way of doing business.”

“It’s a bit like pushing a boulder: the hardest bit is getting going”

Safety culture change at Kohler Mira began as a traditional project using SUSA and BBS methods with a beginning, middle and an end. But as Martin reveals:

“Now we’re trying to move away from the concept of a project because safety has no end really. You have to talk about safety everyday.”

He suggests your approach to safety culture change should evolve over time. As long as you send out a consistent message:

“Everyone has a choice when they do a task, it’s about encouraging people to stop and think. You have to show them there’s actually very little downside to making the safest decision.”

He illustrates with this chivalrous example:

“It’s like the way men open doors for women (if they still do!): that’s culture. It’s something people do naturally. That’s what you want. Safety should be the first thing that comes to mind.”

But winning hearts and minds is your first challenge:

“It doesn’t matter how many presentations you give or laws you quote. It’s about practical everyday sensible working. If people put themselves at risk, you’ve got to step in.”

For Martin, it’s all about finding the right balance between awareness, process and getting the job done. And it’s a balance Kohler Mira struck with impressive results, but not before tackling obstacles along the way.

“In any programme you’ll come across disbelievers”

A spanner between two cogs

Whenever you try to change attitudes, values and beliefs in your organisation you’re bound to find people who are cynical of your intentions and want to put a spanner in the works, despite your good intentions. So why do you get well-poisoners?

“You can spend a lot of time trying to convince non-believers. They often have long memories [and still believe in] that age-old conflict between workers and management. But safety isn’t about that. It’s something that affects everyone.”

But what can you do about the problem?

“You’ve got to recognise when the light switches on for other people. Work with them. They’re the ones who’ll get the message out there for you.”

Ambassadors, as Martin calls them, are your key to success. They’re the ones who believe in what you’re trying to achieve. Perhaps because they’ve experienced accidents or understand the positive benefits a safer organisational culture brings. In simpler terms:

“It’s like the way ex-smokers often become the strongest anti-smokers.”

How to run your safety culture change programme

The three most popular options are:

  1. Do everything in-house: you keep ownership but your employees are unlikely to have the experience and time to run a full safety culture change programme alongside their day jobs.
  2. Let a consultancy do everything: removes all the hassle for you and brings in experience but it’s less sustainable because of limited knowledge-transfer and legitimacy.
  3. A mixture of the two: run it yourself with support from a consultancy.

Kohler Mira improved their chances of success by using a mixture of the two. But a common fear of outside consultants is that they have no relationship with workers on the front-line; this might risk alienating staff.

“Some of our safety team and managers were trained to be safety coaches, so we actually train our own people on the shop floor. It’s cost-effective and more legitimate.”

Because consultancy happens at a senior level it actually means Kohler Mira bring about culture change themselves on the front-line. Risk is also offset by the expertise, tools and techniques a specialist consultancy brings:

“It’s about engaging people to think and act safely. We learned from other people’s mistakes through compelling videos which told some hard truths… We used the Playsafe board game too, which shows if you gamble with safety you’re playing the odds and your number will eventually come up. Even our team leaders are asking to run the game now.”

10 tips for more effective safety culture change

We asked Martin what advice he’d give to someone about to begin a safety culture change programme:

  1. Think long-term: you’ll see some early benefits but safety culture change takes time.
  2. Plan ahead: with short-term actions.
  3. Keep asking basic questions: like can this accident be prevented?
  4. Find a safety champion in your business: the more senior the better. They underline the message that people getting hurt just isn’t right.
  5. Remind people often about your message: but in a variety of ways: with refresher training, workshops and new tools.
  6. Share success with people: show them statistics to prove it’s working
  7. Show people consequences: getting injured affects their quality of life; that’s hobbies, sport and home life too, not just work.
  8. Work on behaviour: Because you can see that, but you can’t see attitudes, values and beliefs. Practice safe behaviour and over time attitudes will change.
  9. Make sure the basics are in place first: like tidy workplaces, machine guards and audits. It’s no good trying to tackle behaviour if the fundamentals aren’t right.
  10. Choose the right consultancy partner: to support you along the way with the right knowledge and tools for successful safety culture change.

This article was written by Chris Kenworthy

Tribe Culture Change
chris@chriskenworthy.co.uk