Talking about safety

I’ve undergone a conversion and I feel compelled to tell you about it.

The received wisdom is that the route companies take to behaviour based safety is via a gradually improving health and safety performance brought about by the development of a traditional safety management system. Accidents reduce gradually through the implementation of safety inspections and housekeeping audits and risk assessments and training etc. until a stubborn plateau is reached. This residue of accidents has nothing to do with unsafe facilities or equipment or procedures or systems of work; the accidents that remain are caused by unsafe behaviours.

The IOSH guidance on the subject says Behavioural safety processes are not a ‘quick fix’ and it is important not to overlook fundamental elements. Organisations should begin by concentrating on policies and systems – assessing and improving management and operational factors, training, design and so on.

The inference is that addressing behaviour can and should wait. I used to believe that, now I don’t.

Unsafe behaviour can undermine all of the effort that is required to develop a traditional safety management system at a time when there are often few victories to be had. So doesn’t it really boil down to this and this alone? If addressing unsafe behaviours can lead to a significant reduction in accidents – and there is plenty of evidence that it does – shouldn’t we give it a try rather than wait?

My number one client certainly thinks so. Together we’ve developed a 1-day training workshop called Positive engagement to train employees how to challenge unsafe behaviours in a positive and constructive, rather than confrontational way with a view ultimately to all employees being safety champions.

I appreciate of course that there are pitfalls that need to be negotiated with behavioural safety. I’m not promoting a behavioural safety process at the expense of a traditional safety system. I’m simply advocating getting employees talking to each other about safety.

Such is the seismic nature of my conversion, I think it’s the first thing we should do.

If you’d like to receive more details about Positive engagement, please drop me a line or call 07921914099.

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