Regardless of the management tool implemented, it is crucial that organisations accompany it with an authentic cultural change in order to prevent the system becoming a mere paper-exercise incapable of improving risk in reality.
Dr. Paul Cummins (MSc, MBA – MD SeaChange, Ltd.)
The globalisation of the economy and the increased concern for occupational health and safety worldwide, has led to an upsurge in the number of national and international systems, drafts, guides and standards, produced by a large number of bodies and institutions from various countries (Fernandez-Muniz et al., 2012). However, regardless of the management tool implemented, it is crucial organisations accompany it with an authentic cultural change in order to prevent the system becoming a mere paper system incapable of improving the accident figures (Fernandez-Muniz et al., 2007b). The behaviour of employees is critical for avoiding both material and personal losses and full involvement and support from all levels of the organisation is critical in order for the system to be effective and for objectives to be achieved; therefore it is vital that the policies and procedures that the standard entails are connected to the people on the ground. But how do organisations achieve this connection? It is made especially difficult by the fact that H&S has been reduced to compliance and paper-based exercises driven by legislation with minimal management proximity, engagement and prioritisation.
This is a stunningly common problem, and this approach remains reactive, lagging and certainly not world-class in its thinking. And yet organisations continue to invest heavily in the wrong things when it comes to safety. As iterated by Clarke (2010), despite decades of technological advancements in safety systems and equipment, the diminishing return of such investments indicates the need for amplified effort to understand the human contribution to accidents. The reality of traditional approaches and most behaviour-based systems actually creates a disconnect between operators (who are most at risk) and the safety message which has good intentions- but fails to deliver due to a lack of simple, practical communication that results in local ownership and accountability; stimulating a culture of interdependence. As such, a major challenge faced by safety professionals and corporate leaders is to build a work culture that facilitates self-accountability for safety (Geller, 2001).
“The bottom line is, when people are crystal clear about the most important priorities of the organisation and team they work with and prioritized their work around those top priorities, not only are they many more times productive, they discover they have the time they need to have a whole life.”