A popular business concept has organizations searching for how they can look to the future while still dealing with day-to-day crisis events. These mini and maxi disruptions come from things like weather disasters, fatalities, spills and the like…and suck our resources dry. Those of you who have experienced such career-shaking times know that pretty much all non-crisis activities and plans cease while you are in the midst of the moment—which seems like it will never end!
It’s long been a beef with safety and health pros that senior leaders, with the rare exception, just don’t get safety. Business bosses don’t study it in business school, and since safety is a cost center and not a profit generator, leadership spends little time studying safety issues. Health issues, with their more delayed consequences and debatable connection to worker lifestyle issues (smoking, obesity, alcohol and drug abuse) are even further off the executive radar screen.
I prefer to be optimistic and humanistic, believing that the silent majority does care about the safety and health of others, and wants to do the right thing. Consider for example the large numbers of people reacting to tragedies from shootings in airports and educational settings to catastrophes from climate change.
James Madison, fourth president of the United States, was instrumental in drafting the United States constitution. He warned against creating laws “so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.”
Trust is one of the fundamental aspects contained in the British Health & Safety Executive’s ubiquitous definition of Safety Culture, which states “organizations with a positive Safety Culture are characterized by communications founded on mutual trust, by shared perceptions of the importance of safety, and by confidence in the efficacy of preventative measures”[i].
There’s been a lot of fury and fuss about how the secret to improving workplace safety lies in increasing the value on which the corporate culture places on the safety of the workers. As individuals our values dictate how we spend our time, money, and efforts (If you want to know what is really important to you just take a careful look at where you spend your time and money), as we grow older and mature our values, if they serve us well, become deeply ingrained and difficult to change.
There is no “I” in the word “team,” but according to one of our customers there is an “I” in safety – four of them, in fact. Four “I” words sum up what this customer believes it took to get his organization to begin the safety culture improvement journey.
Without clear, strong sponsorship from executive leadership and other management teams, a change process is unlikely to [a] secure the necessary resources, [b] have the means to obtain and retain the support of others, and/or [c] overcome the tendency of many to resist change.