Safety Culture Assessment and Organisational Development

More recently with changes in legislation under the Corporate Homicide and Corporate Manslaughter Act of 2007 section 8 charges a jury in consideration of case to take account of an organisations safety culture.

A Safety Culture is not a static concept it has many different parts which include the organisations systems, attitudes and perceptions. It is the interaction of these that form an organisational safety culture. One of the key misunderstandings is that focusing purely on systems will drive safety improvement. Whilst good safety systems are necessary and should be the first thing that are considered they are in themselves not enough to drive continuous safety improvement.

Safety management systems are prerequisite for safety performance, but they do not mean that people will engage in safer practices. For this to occur an organisation needs to develop a 'mind set' of values that are not only espoused, but are lived.

An organisations safety culture, according to the Parker and Hudson model, can be split into five distinct types:

Pathological - an organisation which perceives safety as something that is costly.

Reactive - an organisation which responds to safety issues once they have led to poor safety performance.

Calculative - an organisation which manages safety through systems and uses hard trailing indicators of safety to assess performance. Safety is a set of standards to be complied with.

Proactive - an organisation which actively involves the workforce in the management of safety and uses leading indicators. Safety is a key concern to all.

Generative - an organisation the possesses a healthy paranoia for safety and uses soft and lead indictors of safety performance. Safety is a value held by everyone.

Ryder Marsh is specialised to deal with the assessment of something which is, to many, a non tangible quality of an organisation. Ryder Marsh will assess your organisations safety culture or its safety climate and provide recommendations and for organisational improvement.

There are two forms of assessment; the first is the use of a Safety Culture Assessment tool which uses structured interviews with employees to determine the level of safety culture across five different areas, namely Procedures, Perceived Organisational Value for Safety, Incident Reporting and Investigation, Safety Communication and Safety Training and Competence. The assessment provides us with an organisational culture profile which allows us together with the tacit obtained during the process to develop plan for culture improvement. Improvements examine issues how to align leadership behaviour with company values, how to increase more compliance to safety standards and improve safety communication.

A CASE STUDY: Safety Culture Assessment
A company was suffering problems with safety performance. A team of two consultants spent four days on site interviewing 50 people within the organisation. Using a structured interview technique, the analysis revealed that whilst people felt that the managers were committed to safety, it was found that problems were being experienced with procedures, training and first line leadership. The procedures did not reflect the task and so operators were unable to follow them. In this situation competence can be used to compensate for procedural gaps as long as a thorough risk assessment is conducted by a competent person. However the training, whilst provided, did not thoroughly assess the operator for competence. In other words it was assumed that once you had attended the course the person was competent to operate machinery etc. The problem therefore was that operators were undertaking tasks that did not fit with procedures. When they turned to first line managers for advice, the manager who was working to new milestones would simply say "Just do your best to get the job done". This was then leading operators to make skilled judgements to problems that they did not always have the competence to resolve. Subsequently people had to invent ways of working that was leading to unsafe acts being committed. Using the information gleamed from the analysis, the organisation with the Ryder Marsh team was able to put together a development plan that dealt with the challenges to move the organisation from 'Calculative' bordering on 'Reactive' to an organisation that was firmly 'Calculative' quickly moving into a 'Proactive' organisation.

A CASE STUDY: Safety Climate Questionnaire
A specialist engineering company wanted to look at developing a road map for safety improvement. A safety climate questionnaire was designed to meet the questions the client wanted answers too. The questionnaire was sent out to 2,000 people for various positions in the company. The results were collected and sent to Ryder Marsh for analysis. An organisational psychologist analysed the results of the data using structural equation modelling techniques and other advanced multivariate analysis techniques. The end result was that Ryder Marsh was able to provide the organisation with a safety performance model which predicted safety behaviour and showed how management behaviour influenced the organisation. The model was put to the test by having managers model behaviour within a section of the business, the results were dramatic with increases in positive safety indicators and safety practices coupled with a reduction in incidents.