Improving Safety Culture and Performance
EMEA Regional Focus: Process Safety Management
Establishing an effective safety learning culture will help organisations achieve sustainable safety performance and compliance.
It's generally accepted that having a good safety culture underpins good safety performance, but it's one of those areas where realising this in practice can be challenging. Many companies undertake cultural improvement initiatives, but often the direct causal linkage to safety performance is missing.
Companies should ask themselves, "Do we really see a sustainable improvement in safety performance following a safety culture improvement intervention?"
It may be better to look at the problem the other way around, instead of taking periodic culture 'snap-shot' and making changes in the hope that things improve, start with a cultural analysis of your actual safety performance.
How to Sustain Your Safety Performance
In our experience we would expect that an organisation's cultural weaknesses will contribute to the root causes of their safety incidents; but many companies fail to investigate culture as part of their investigations. Further to this, poor culture will also manifest in the pre-cursers to incidents, i.e. those measured by leading Process Safety Performance Indicators (PSPIs).
To have sustainable safety performance improvement, organisations must do more to equip themselves to be able to identify cultural weaknesses, learn how to address them and then know how to monitor cultural indicators.
Many companies use the Process Safety Triangle concept to manage safety. The theory states that the number of incidents will be reduced by reducing the number of near misses, and the number of near misses will be reduced by having good process controls in place, and so on down the triangle. Therefore, it's a reasonable extension to show the Triangle underpinned by culture as it affects the implementation of the management system.
Cultural Cause Analysis in Incident Investigations
The driver for investigation of Incidents and Near Misses is to identify improvements to the management system. Cultural Cause Analysis (CCA) is an extension of root cause analysis that enables you to identify which cultural features may have contributed to the incident.
Some of the common cultural weaknesses include:
- A tolerance of deviations from intended performance
- A lack of responsiveness to safety concerns
- Not listening to the experts
- A lack of a sense of vulnerability
- A lack of mutual trust with individuals not feeling able to raise concerns
Performance benefits will arise from identifying which ones contribute most often to incidents, so that subsequent cultural improvements can be linked to improved safety performance.