Sustainable Safety Cultures

May 3, 2011
Ultimately, safety excellence must be developed from within the organization.

Anyone engaged in continuous improvement knows that making gains is only half the battle. Sustaining those gains presents an equal if not bigger challenge.

The same holds true when it comes to creating a sustainable safety culture.

It can be done, however, according to Shawn M. Galloway, president and COO of ProAct Safety, who spoke at the recent IndustryWeeks Best Plants conference in Atlanta. In a lively presentation, Galloway discussed methods to continuously increase the positive elements of an organizations safety culture while avoiding the negative traps that scuttle success. A few of the elements are described below.

Interestingly, one of the first points stressed by Galloway, whose firm helps organizations achieve safety excellence, is that a sustainable safety culture must be developed from within. Not to say that external help isnt valuable, he stressed, but the hard work must be from within. He also noted that forcing people to do things results in pushback.

Like Robert B. Hafey, author of Lean Safety: Transforming your Safety Culture with Lean Management, Galloway said that compliance is critical, but it only takes you so far in building a sustainable safety culture.

Trust, on the other hand, is the glue that holds a culture together, he emphasized. The workplace must trust its leaders.

Galloway briefly discussed a four-part process his firm promotes to improve safety. The process has an acronym, called FILM, which stands for focus, influence, listen and measure. In some ways, the model is reminiscent of the PDCA (plan, do, check, act/adjust) model frequently used in continuous improvement efforts. The FILM model says:

  • Focus: What are you focusing on?
  • Influence: What is influencing peoples safety behaviors?
  • Listen: This is how you learn why people are doing what they are doing.
  • Measure: Its commonly said and remains true that you cant improve if you dont measure.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Galloway also touched on performance management as a means to help shape safe behaviors, the use of incentives, and risk. Performance management, he said, begins with behavioral targets and answers the question What do you want people to do? What you want them to do must be observable and therefore coachable, Galloway said. The other components of performance management include setting a level of expectations and effectively communicating that level of expectation (saying something one time does not mean you have set expectations, he emphasized), followed by providing feedback in the form of the consequences for performance and non-performance.

On risk, Galloway noted that the recognition of risk deteriorates when accidents dont occur.

On sharing the why of an action: If people dont understand, they resist.

On rewards and incentives: Dont be quick to use incentives and rewards. They can drive the wrong behaviors. If workers are working toward a bonus as an incentive, for example, the wrong thing is motivating their behavior, Galloway suggests. He also cautioned to be alert that rewards do not become incentives.

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