Carrying out a culture assessment recently at a nuclear power station in a charming part of the country prompts me to consider what the signs might be that you’ve ‘cracked it’ regarding safety culture.

The first point is of course that you never really crack it. The culture just moves forward and the expectations get higher too. Plainly the safety expectations for a nuclear power station are extremely high (editors note: just as well, Steve) but having said this, the expectations of a lot of industries (construction?) are moving forward at a pace as well.

Two halves of a cracked golden egg

So what are the positive signs? Well a lot of them are about leadership (oh please Steve not leadership again!) but this is my party (and I’ll cry if I want to …) so we’re going to focus on upward rather than downward indicators.

How about these?

  • Refusal: members of the workforce simply have to be confident to question anything that they see as an unsafe course of action and to expect the challenge to be constructively received i.e. no bullying; badgering; pleading or ‘just this once-ing’; but instead a fair assessment of the situation. Not just ‘get it done sunshine’
  • Belief: a tough one. People have to passionately believe that all injuries are preventable so that they strive to prevent. People also have to believe that they have control and are instrumental in preventing their own injuries.
  • Intervention: people are unafraid to stop their peers, superiors or juniors from acting unsafely and actively do so.
  • Vision: everyone in the organisation is aware of the safety vision, know exactly what is to be achieved in safety and can quote the aims. Er “is it to reduce accidents?”
  • Blame: ah ha the three cultures
    • Blame: no good at all. I’m hardly going to come forwards with a near miss if Judge Dredd is likely to make me ‘Eat leaden death, lawbreaker’.
    • No Blame: maybe a halfway house on the way to Just. This increases near miss reporting, injury reporting without a doubt.
    • Just: when the culture is sufficiently developed for everyone to shoulder their responsibilities for safety.

But the biggest indicator of all is behaviour at home or perhaps even driving behaviour outside work. People can make the behavioural shift at work but when they take it home then the attitude has shifted too.

Talk to your staff. Are they:

  • Wearing eye protection when cutting the hedge.
  • Wearing eye protection when using power tools.
  • Not wearing sandals and shorts when mowing the lawn… and unplugging/removing the plug cap before clearing the blades.
  • Sweeping the wall with a cable detector before drilling into it.
  • Wearing a dust mask, gloves and goggles to lag the loft.
  • Or even possibly… observing the speed limit.

Maybe, just maybe when you see or hear about these things you might have started to crack it.