Thought Leadership


Who am I? Foundational safety culture requirements

November 20, 2012
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The ISHN BlogOne of my favorite Broadway musicals is “Les Misérables.” My favorite musical score for this powerful drama takes place when the hero, Jean Valjean, sings “Who am I?”  Though his performance ends with a prisoner number that represents his former life, the real song content deals with the actions and values he lives and demonstrates in his new life as a principled business leader.

In my travels, I get to meet principled safety leaders who, over their years of service, have discovered foundational systems that must be in place for a safety culture to be truly excellent. One of the people who does this best is Dave Fennell, Senior Safety Advisor for Imperial Oil in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 

Dave uses a safety perception survey on a regular basis to check the reality of safety culture details that are not necessarily evident to daily observations. The results lead to focused work on improving the safety culture over time. However, over the years, Dave has carefully built a safety net of sorts that always delivers foundational, rock-solid performance day in and day out. The surveys provide minor tweaks to his system of core excellence. Here are Dave’s core excellence requirements:

• Supervisors with a high level of safety competency

• Supervisors active in behavior and work site observations

• Workers with a high level of understanding of safety processes

• Alignment of company and contractor safety cultures

Management committed and involved

• Implementation of a strong new worker mentoring and training program

All work groups at all sites live these principles. And this includes their contractors. The well thought out and practiced systems behind these principles are conditions of employment that are reinforced every day in all that the organization does. Dave’s vertically integrated petrochemical organization, which employs more than 3,000 people, regularly delivers a recordable injury rate of less than 0.4 and a lost time injury rate of less than 0.02. 

And this leads to an ending question: Who are you? Is it time to build a different kind of safety net for your organization, one that has inviolate principles that live every day in the actions of all your people?

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