Web ExclusiveIf, after reading this, you have identified that you may have some features of a broken Safety Culture, or you just want to enhance your existing efforts, you may want to consider the following:

Develop a Safety Partnership between management and employees, whereby a culture of safety is created to support the philosophy of “safe production is the number one priority[i],” in recognition that good safety is good for business, while also putting safety and productivity on an equal footing.

Develop and maintain a just and fair culture, whereby employees trust the company and its management to only discipline for blatant safety violations, not unintentional errors or mistakes. Reprimanding an injured person for their injury resulting from a mistake will almost certainly lead to people hiding any near-hits (close calls) and minor injuries, as nobody wants to get into trouble. Those very few people who intentionally act recklessly or take deliberate and unjustifiable risks should be punished appropriately.

Develop the means and methods for effective safety leadership, whereby managers at all levels visibly demonstrate their commitment to safety and are held accountable by the company.

For example, managers make decisions that err on the side of safety when there is any doubt, are seen to do so, and are willing to defend their actions if questioned. They also set clear expectations that their direct reports will follow the prescribed rules / procedures at all times, and reinforce this by their daily actions. To facilitate a culture of effective safety leadership, ensure Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are behavioral in nature and are focused on specific processes to achieve improvement, not the outcomes of these processes. The desired outcomes will be achieved naturally. For example, focusing on managerial leadership behaviors (e.g. Percent Leadership scores) and workers’ safety behaviors (e.g. Percentage Safe scores) lets you know that people are trying to control safety before an incident occurs. Incident rates (outcomes) merely inform you about your failure rate: thus, it is better for KPIs to focus on proactive, rather than reactive, indicators.

Develop a culture of compliance with rules and procedures for both managers and the workforce. Operational difficulties which arise from working strictly to the rules and procedures are usually more than enough proof that the systems for developing and implementing safety rules and procedures are seriously flawed. Assess whether any compliance issues are related to administrative, technical, educational, planning, manpower, or willingness problems. Then develop a process that involves employees in procedural reviews, whereby rules and procedures are clarified and simplified. Also consider adopting an adaptive Behavioral-Based Safety process that includes both managers and employees, to focus on critical compliance behaviors.

Although a major challenge, develop a culture of safety communication that has numerous two-way communication and feedback channels between company sites, departments, work areas, and the workforce[ii]. Poor communication has been shown to be a major contributor in many workplace fatality incidents.

Develop a culture of competency by creating and maintaining a focused training regime that integrates job training and safety. In this way, people are highly trained to undertake their tasks safely. In addition, develop a regime that only places highly trained / experienced people in critical job roles where safety is paramount.

Consistently reinforce the Safety Partnership. Changing a Safety Culture requires leaders to wean employees off of a dependence on management for safety so that they accept responsibility for their own behavior and then move to a state where they recognize that safety is a social activity and that everyone has to work together as a TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More!). This will take a consistency of purpose, focus, and execution from all concerned.

Develop a ‘culture of sharing lessons learned’, where the company is willing and has the competence to draw the right conclusions from its safety information system, and the will to implement major reforms when the need is indicated. This will require the encouragement and reinforcement of incident reporting, followed up with comprehensive Root Cause Analysis to extract the relevant information.

Simultaneously, develop a culture where any and all safety-related Corrective and Preventative Actions (CAPA) are completed in a rapid and timely manner. Known to help improve people’s safety behavior by about 20 percent, it is especially important to ensure information received is acted upon  if it highlights a potential hazard. It is also useful to compare any hazards reported with your current risk assessments to ensure they are current and reflect the issues identified.


Eight Safety Culture Takeaways

Eliminate or reduce any safety vs. productivity conflicts.

Adopt and enact the philosophy and vision that ‘safe production is the number one priority’.

Develop a safety partnership between management and employees.

Actively involve employees in the safety improvement effort in meaningful ways. For example, facilitate [a] employee reviews of Risk Assessments/Job Safety Analysis and Rules & Procedures, [b] development of Safety Communications and Training; [c] employee development and implementation of an adaptive Behavior-Based Safety process, etc.

Insist managers visibly demonstrate their safety leadership

Get managers to [a] be role models and inspire people to comply with safety procedures / rules; [b] hold safety conversations with employees, [c] facilitate any corrective actions, etc.

Hold leadership accountable for HSE performance

Ensure the bulk of the criteria for managerial promotions / bonuses are HSE-related.

Resource, complete, and monitor corrective and preventative actions.

Show you are sincere. Address any hazards where there can be any type of unwanted ‘energy’ release, to limit the potential for injury, within the shortest possible timeframe.

Consistently communicate about safety to all, in multiple ways.

Keep people informed and align their safety values to continual safety improvement. Engage in a two-way dialogue with the workforce on safety.

Define safety KPIs that are behavioral in nature.

Challenge people to improve. Set ‘stretch’ safety improvement targets and monitor quarterly.

Share lessons learned in a timely manner with the workforce and others.

Encourage the reporting and investigation of all near-hits (close calls). If applicable, also share the key lessons learned with the entire Industry.


B-Safe Management Solutions

Franklin, Indiana



[i] McLain, D. L., & Jarrell, K. A. (2007). The perceived compatibility of safety and production expectations in hazardous occupations. Journal of Safety Research38(3), 299-309.

[ii] Lundgren, R. E., & McMakin, A. H. (2011). Risk communication: A handbook for communicating environmental, safety, and health risks. Wiley-IEEE Press.