Safety is Not a “Moment” : Safety Culture Development or Derailment?

Safety is Not a "Moment" : Improving Our Safety Culture Development | Call to Action!One of the unintentional consequences of placing a focus on safety is the way we bolt it on to other activities we do.  For instance, we regularly hold production or operations meetings (or even corporate meetings) to talk about the tasks we’ll be doing that day or that week.  And to give safety a primary place in that meeting (safety first!), we’ll work in something like a “safety moment.”

That’s a well meaning practice, but it unfortunately reinforces some notions about safety that may work against us when doing safety culture development. [password=”safety-moment”]

Is Our Safety Message Bolted On?

Keep in mind that when safety is presented in this way, it implies safety isn’t a natural part of that prod/ops conversation.  Instead, it’s a “moment.” It’s a foreign item that doesn’t really belong there.  It’s “bolted on” to that conversation instead “built in” to it.  Safety ends up being viewed as something we do in addition to the tasks themselves, rather than the way we do those tasks. 50 things you must know about safety leadership That’s bad for purposes of safety culture development.

A more effective way to include safety in these meetings is to weave it into the entire conversation.  And one of the best ways to do that is to use a JSA (Job Safety Analysis, Job Hazard Analysis, Risk Assessment) format for that conversation.

Building Safety Into Our Prod/Ops Discussion

There are three main questions to ask in this kind of conversation:

1.  What’s the job?

It’s important for purposes of engagement that you’re not the one telling them what the job is, but instead pulling that information out of them using an open-ended question:

“Guys, walk us through what we’re doing today.  What are the tasks of this job?” 

As much as possible, let them come up with the responses to this question to get the ball rolling in that discussion.

From Compliance to Culture Malaysia safety officer training2.  What are the hazards of the job?

Once we’ve got a discussion going on the job tasks, we can introduce the second question, also in the form of an open-ended question:

“Okay, so we’re going to be doing some hot work?  What are some of the associated hazards we’re going to have to watch out for?” 

Again, let them come up with those hazards.  The more this is their information and not yours, the more they will actively think about the hazards of the job.

3.  How will we mitigate those hazards?

Now that they are actively thinking about hazards it’s time to get them focused on just how they will do that job today.  Again, use an open-ended question:

“Guys, it looks like there are a few hazards out there today. How are we going to mitigate those hazards?”

Now they’re thinking about solutions.  And since those solutions are their ideas (not yours), they’ll not only take ownership for them, but there’s a good chance they’ll act on them as well (no one disagrees with their own ideas!).  Building safety ownership in those who are most at risk is good for safety culture development.

But What About Routine Tasks?

fctc-online-bannerThis method can work even for routine tasks (though maybe not as effectively).  The point is, if you’re already having discussions about the job tasks (whether routine or not), then you can easily use this format to add a level of engagement that you didn’t have before.  And since safety is woven into that conversation, it just feels more like it’s built in to what we’re doing rather than bolted on to it, and it reinforces our safety culture development.

That’s all for this edition of Recordable INSIGHTS.  Be sure to view the associated video below to learn more about these tips. Until next time.


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About the Author

Eric Svendsen
Eric Svendsen, Ph.D., is Principal and lead change agent for safetyBUILT-IN, a safety-leadership learning and development organization. He has over 20 years experience in creating and executing outcomes-based leadership development and culture change initiatives aligned to organizational goals, and he personally led the safety-culture initiatives of a number of client organizations that resulted in “best ever safety performance” years for those companies.