Page 12 - OHS, June 2022
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Corporate Safety Culture Is Workplace Culture
Safety culture is the way we do things and the reason why we do them.
The chief job responsibilities of most safety and health practitioners—regardless of career maturity—is most likely compliance, building management systems, training and implementing programs that keep people and the work environment safe. We support this work by identifying the hazards and errors posing risks to the work system and then employing control measures to eliminate or mitigate those hazards.
But what happens when some of those risks appear unmeasurable? How do we recommend additional programming that is often judged on perceptions, feelings or even unpopular realities to corporate leadership?
Safety culture is a term that penetrates numerous C-Suite discussions. Some celebrate that fact, yet many are trying to determine if safety culture is the missing link to safety success. There’s a reason why—a positive safety culture is hard to achieve and even harder to sustain—but it is the missing link that influences good safety performance.
Another dilemma is whether we need to improve safety culture or organizational culture. Both are closely related. Corporate culture is defined as the moral, social and behavioral norms of an organization based on the beliefs, attitudes and perceptions of its employees. Safety culture is defined nearly the same: as an organization’s underlying beliefs, truths, ideas, assumptions, values and practices demonstrated between its members. How we behave and show these attributes are mission-critical to success.
Safety Culture and Organizational Culture
What is important to understand is that safety culture is, in all reality, a subculture of organizational culture. It’s simply a granular focus in one part of the overall management system, and can be stalled or elevated by corporate culture.
The reality is that the first discussion corporate leaders should have is, “Do we have the right organizational culture that reflects how we want to protect our people, and if not, how can we improve?”
If an organization is brave enough to answer that question, it can improve. Want to go from good to great? Support culture and develop a robust management system that embraces compliance, builds worker knowledge and capability, mentors and coaches for the desired behaviors and employs the management leadership lever to push it all forward.
A Journey of a Thousand Miles
Organizations desiring a better safety culture are undertaking a journey. The journey starts with a single step and is marked by milestones as the culture develops. Before even starting this journey, the first objective should be to understand the table stakes. Ask these questions of leadership: How robust is the safety management system? How effective are our safety policies? Do we ensure compliance, and are we developing people with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed?
10 Occupational Health & Safety | JUNE 2022

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