After we recently wrote about safety culture and consciousness, it occurred to me that not everyone really knows what we mean when we say “culture based safety.” With all the talk of buy-in, it is difficult to ask employees for it if you do not understand exactly what safety culture is. Over the next three entries, we’ll discuss what culture is and how we can influence it to improve safety.
Why all the talk about “culture”?
For decades, workplace safety professionals have advised employers to "engineer out" risks to employees.
Have a machine with exposed moving parts? Put a guard on it. Does a job task require awkward lifting and twisting? Change the working environment to eliminate the lift and twist. Is the job physically difficult? Find an automated solution.
All of these valid and logical methods for reducing injuries have been underway for decades. And, yet, people get injured at work every day. Sure, there are fewer injuries and many of them are less severe but we still haven't come close to solving root causes of workplace injuries.
It was none other than Albert Einstein who said: “The problems we face today cannot be solved by the same level of thinking we were at when we created them."
And, of course, that famous definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result) seems to be a mantra of many a workplace. The truth is, engineering as it's been known to safety professionals over the years has its limits. Today, study after study is finding that the way to a safer workplace is by integrating business and safety goals toward a congruent culture of safe productive work. Not only does this culture help reduce injuries today-- it creates sustainable change for the future.
The term "culture" often gets thrown around these days but what does it really mean? Better yet, can a culture really be created? In our next blog we’ll answer the question, “What is a safety culture?”