Positive safety culture

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One of the challenges for the organization implementing SMS is to assess and develop a positive safety culture. Let’s take a look at some aspects of a safety culture a bit more in depth. The term safety culture can be traced to the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident and, since then, has become a term widely used to characterize the values, beliefs, and norms shared by a group of people regarding safety. we defined safety culture as a fusion of several cultures—informed, flexible, reporting, learning, and just—and we briefly defined each of those cultures.

Let’s examine some attributes of a positive safety culture:

·       A positive safety culture is generated from the top down. Like so many of the other issues we’ve discussed in this book, senior leadership must set the stage for a positive safety culture. Through words (verbal and documented) and actions, management at all levels must clearly demonstrate its commitment to safety in all its decisions. This includes directing the resources of the organization to address safety concerns. Senior management establishes safety as a core value, and provides strong safety leadership.

·       While this may sound obvious, the organization must acknowledge the nature of its activities as high-risk and high-consequence. Some have termed this as “maintaining a sense of vulnerability”.

·       Trust permeates the organization. All involved must believe that trust is an essential ingredient in safety management, and that they will be supported by the organization when they make decisions in the interest of safety.

·        Hazards and safety risks are actively sought, and there is no thought of shooting the messenger. Everyone in the organization is vigilant and wary about the organization’s activities, and is predisposed and trained to recognize and respond to the hazards identified. Further, when those hazards are identified, prompt action will be taken to investigate and mitigate them as practicable.

·        The responsibility for safety is shared. There may be a safety department or a designated safety officer in the organization, but everyone knows that they bear responsibility for safety. Further, individuals in the organization will challenge others when they observe unsafe acts.

·        High standards of performance are established, and there is constant monitoring of that performance.

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