Improving the culture of safety within an organisation is neither an onerous nor a difficult task, but it requires us to be proactive and use a range of soft skills.
Much has been written over the past 20 years about safety culture and you will probably ask if there a need for another book on the subject. But the central premise of this book is the need to better direct our efforts to align safety with the business agenda.
From Accidents to Zero aims to deconstruct the mystery that surrounds safety culture. Quite simply, I seek to strip back the academic theory and complexity through a critical narrative that encourages readers to stand back and think again about what they and their organisation are doing to create a safe working environment.
Culture change does not have to be a process that takes years to deliver real improvements. Culture change takes as long as we want it to. When we realise that culture can change one person at a time, we can understand that if we are prepared to put in the effort, we can make a real difference very quickly indeed.
Helping our colleagues to want to work safely needs a different approach. And that’s what you’ll find in From Accidents to Zero. You’ll find discussions on behaviour, trust, mindfulness, values and leadership. The book isn’t about preventing accidents, or a guide to legislation or an overview of management systems. It’s about creating safety in the workplace.
The overarching premise is that safety leadership is not a hierarchical duty – solely the preserve of senior management – but a role that falls to each and every one of us, no matter who we are or where we stand in the corporate structure.
The 26 chapters start by addressing accidents and end with exploring the dangers of focusing on the numbers (namely ‘zero’) and losing sight of the people. At the end of each chapter I pose questions to encourage the reader to think critically about his or her current approach to workplace safety.
The traditional view of culture change is that it is deemed to be effective only when everyone is involved, from the boardroom to the shopfloor. Of course this sounds like a wonderful situation but frankly it is a nonsense.
Over time, many organisations have found that their safety culture has been considerably enhanced through the application of ‘felt leadership’, which benefits not just workplace safety performance, but helps to deliver sustainable, shared value in other areas of the business too.
Strong, visible management commitment is the basic component of any successful safety management system – indeed it is key to successful business management more broadly. This commitment must start at the top, permeating down through all levels of the organisation. To achieve zero accidents, leaders must sincerely believe that safety is as equally important as any other business aspect such as quality, productivity and cost.
When felt leadership is demonstrated within an organisation in the area of safety, a cultural transformation can occur. More importantly, that transformation can be sustainable if it becomes part of the fabric of the company and the work environment. Objectives concerning felt leadership need to be built into the work plans of supervisors, managers and leaders and the impact of their actions must be measured.
The intention of the book is to inform and inspire. Improving the culture of safety within an organisation is neither an onerous nor a difficult task, but it requires us to be proactive and use a range of soft skills. The book will help you identify what you need to do to make a difference.
Safety excellence is a journey, not a destination. Along the route you’ll get the level of safety performance that you, as a leader, personally demonstrate that you want. Every journey, no matter the distance or destination, begins with a single step. I wish you every success on your own journey From Accidents to Zero.
Andrew Sharman is director of Safe and Risk Consulting
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