Thought Leadership


Safety Excellence: The six critical components

April 15, 2014
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Dr. Dan Petersen was one of the great safety pioneers of the last 50 years. His focus was consistently on developing a viable safety culture that lived safety accountabilities at all levels of the organization. Organizations fully utilizing his Six Criteria for Safety Excellence are among the leaders in safety performance. These criteria are:

  • Visible Upper Management Commitmentto safety. In most organizations it is difficult to pry executives away from their cost, quality and customer responsibilities and have them be visible in the workplace with respect to safety. Roles, responsibilities and associated activities are essential if we are to make the executives field presence accomplishable.
  • Active Middle Manager Involvementin safety. It is not uncommon for organizations to have far fewer middle managers than in years past. This fact makes their active presence on a regular basis at the workface even more of a challenge. Once again, practical roles, responsibilities and activities provide guidance for these important people to make themselves known in safety where it counts most, on the front line.
  • Focused Supervisor Performance is another key attribute for excellent safety performance. Supervisors have very detailed and specific accountabilities for cost, quality and customer service cultures found in the typical operations culture. In safety, this level of detail and daily accountability is often lacking.  Once your supervisors get on the right track, their safety performance improves remarkably.
  • Active Hourly Participation, without a doubt, is of major importance. The hourly employees are the ones who deliver performance with respect to cost, quality and customer service -- why not safety too?    They are familiarized with accountabilities for everything, except safety. Using this criteria makes a lot of sense, and it also works very well.
  • The System is Flexible to Accommodate the Site Culture  One size does not fit all safety organizations and departments. Yet, we often try to force a regulations and observations approach on all that exists. This just doesn’t work; appropriate departmental safety flexibilities are a necessity.
  • The System is Positively Perceived by the Workforce  This is the feedback loop in safety excellence. We measure our employees’ perceptions and issues throughout the organization and then, put teams to work developing and testing innovative solutions. If there is no effective feedback mechanism, an organization quickly stagnates and then deteriorates.

An organization needs to identify what has to happen before it is able to make the leap from "talk" to active and visible involvement that can attain a sustainable culture of true safety excellence. The Six Criteria of Safety Excellence are an effective test for safety initiatives. Are these visible elements a part of your safety processes? 

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