For most safety professionals, a safety culture is the perceived value each employee has toward safety.  Too often we are caught defining an organization’s safety culture as being either good or bad based on the incidence of safety infractions coupled with total recordables.

It is time to STOP fostering this charade. Perpetuating this farce allows management to narcissistically hide in the fog of a perceived safety culture failure when safety takes a nosedive.

Behaving safely is predicated on one’s personal survival instinct, which often includes following the safety rules. And also believing what management permits to achieve productivity goals.  So where is the safety culture in this?  The perceived value of safety drifts according to the current management’s belief and commitment to safety.

This July we learned that the CDC experienced a breach in safety protocol that potentially led to exposing 80 employees to anthrax.  The head of the laboratory in question resigned effective July 22, 2014. Now we learn that the CDC Director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, has pledged to change the “culture of safety” among its staff. Really?  Dr. Frieden needs to focus on changing the “culture of CDC leadership” and forget about changing the safety culture.  Dr. Frieden’s “leadership” led to the safety breaches involving anthrax exposure.  His level of leadership narcissism will control his response to these safety breaches.  Unfortunately, we live in an era when everything bad is always someone else’s fault.

It is high time for safety professionals to STOP promoting the perception of a safety culture. Start focusing on the organizational culture as the reason safety is good, bad, or drifting.