Improving Safety Culture

When it comes to safety, a deliberate, measured, walk to freedom beats the leap of faith every time.

24 January 2017

Our client in Sub-Saharan Africa realised back in 2012 that their safety culture needed refining, but unclear on how to do this. Every journey starts with a beginning and usually with what we think is the destination we want. When it comes to safety, most organisations start with the destination (such as zero incidents, total safety). To begin, we encouraged our client to clarify where they are now – what was going on in terms of the business?, the people?, the culture?, the work processes ?and task delivery, and any improvement initiatives? What was working and what wasn't working were the questions that needed answering. Intertek carried out a safety culture assessment survey to clarify the company's vision on organisational safety.

A safety culture assessment workshop with the Leadership Team (including senior managers and company directors) took place to help create the right roadmap and aided decision-making.

Based on the results of that survey, we worked with our client to develop a comprehensive 6 - 36 month plan for safety culture improvements. Most of these were carried out internally, supplemented occasionally by external support. Intertek performed regular 'health checks' to see how the plan was progressing and recommended adjustments or refinements.

In 2016 Intertek followed up with a comparative. The results confirmed that the forward momentum for safety improvement was sustained.

So what helped to liberate the safety culture?

  • The growing maturity of the organisation and willingness to seek feedback
  • A highly focused leadership team who saw the business case behind safety and valued raising the bar
  • The passion and dedication of the safety team and their ability to engage the workforce in safety matters
  • An innovative organisational mind-set
  • A clear plan, road-map and regular evaluations and reviews
  • Recognising achievements and rewarding both big and small improvements

From our perspective, focusing on leading rather than lagging indicators has been a guiding force. If you know what things 'have to be going right' in an organisation in order to deliver safety, it becomes much easier to make improvements – you are moving towards what you want, rather than always moving away from what you don't want.

Today's expert blogger is Nuala Gage, Principle Consultant, Sub-Saharan Africa for Intertek's Consulting and Training group. Nuala brings more than 15 years' experience in the industry of learning development and safety leadership.