Promoting Safety Culture

Thomas J. Smith
IET 2012 Power Academy Essay Challenge
University of Southampton
RWE NPower/Horizon Nuclear Power
June 23, 2012
“The safety culture of an organisation is the product of individual and group values, attitudes,
perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behaviour that determine the commitment to, and the
style and proficiency of, an organisations health and safety management.” [1]
1 Introduction
The term “Safety Culture” was first coined by the International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group
(INSAG) in a summary report after the events during April 1986 at the Chernobyl nuclear power
station in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics [2]. It refers to a very general concept of “dedication
and personal responsibility of all those involved in any safety related activity” [3]. The inculcation of
safety culture is of vital importance to the success of any industry. During 2010/11 the UK lost 26.4
million working days due to work-related illness and workplace injury, costing society an estimated 14
billion during 2009/10 [4]. Evidently there are significant stimuli for the promotion of safety culture.
Health and Safety has become synonymous with idiosyncrasies, bureaucracy and inefficiency. As an
industry, how can apathy and agitation be succeeded by enthusiasm and a personal commitment to
a set of safety principles. This report will discuss methods for the inculcation of safety culture in an
organisation, with ambition to increase safety awareness and the value of safety initiatives throughout
the electricity generation and distribution industry.
2 Change Through Leadership
A cultural shift can only be realised through commitment and co-operation at all levels of an or-
ganisation. The role of leaders cannot be understated, “the involvement and commitment of senior
management in pursuing high standards of safety is essential” [5]. An important distinction must be
made between management and leadership. Management acts within a culture where as leadership
defines culture [6]. Alongside conventional measures such as policy changes and safety briefings, a
leader can positively impact the prevailing culture through a number of measures.
Promoting Safety Culture 2
2.1 Personal Commitment
“Safety Culture flows down from actions by the senior management of the organisation” [2]. By
visibly pursuing safety excellence in their own personal lives, for example, by wearing correct PPE or
not using their mobile while walking across a car park, a leader can reinforce the culture. If there is
disparity between words and deeds of leadership, then an effective safety culture can easily be eroded.
2.2 Effective Communication
Comprehensive safety management strategies are commonplace in most organisations. However, it is
the duty of management to ensure this policy is communicated to all employees. Literature should
be made available for all to read, along with clear concise signage. Policy review is important. Policy
should be kept relevant and concise, keeping the amount of documents to a sensible minimum. This
will encourage employees to read the policies.
A ‘Toolbox Talk’ by management at the start of a day can focus the workforce on safety principles,
whilst providing an important stage for questions. In an office environment, the ‘Safety Moment’
preceding meetings is an effective way to prompt discussion and consideration of safety topics.
2.3 Embracing Questions
A culture that encourages questions from all levels within the organisation can raise attention to
important issues that could be otherwise missed [2]. There are a number of ways to actively encourage
questions. Allocating time for face to face discussions places importance on asking questions and helps
employees to feel listened to. A ‘question of the month’ prize can often rouse interest and promote
discussion .
3 Employee Led Change
“Active employee participation in safety is important, to build ownership of safety at all levels and
exploit the unique knowledge that employees have of their own work” [7]. Behaviours indicative of a
safety champion can include:
3.1 Thorough and Sensible
Taking care over work, avoiding shortcuts and following procedures, often avoids accidents in the first
place. Timely, orderly and well documented work is conducive to effective safety culture [2].
3.2 Communicate and Question
Questioning is a bidirectional process. Employees should actively seek to question commonplace
procedure, and should expect their questions to be addressed. Questioning the activities of others,
regardless of rank or position, often highlights misnomers regarding basic safety behaviours. Commu-
nication with others helps to share safety initiatives, especially those of other departments, helps to
Promoting Safety Culture 3
develop a unified culture focused on safety. Communicating near misses is also viewed as a priority,
to help identify areas for future policy review, and general improvement.
4 Conclusions
The development of Safety Culture is unique to individual organisations; a single prescriptive formula
does not exist. However, culture can be changed. Safety culture is a concept of practical value,
not only reducing risks of injury, but driving efficiency and productivity, working towards a healthy
working environment and a successful business.
[1] Advisory Committee on the Safety of Nuclear Installations (ACSNI). Organising for Safety: AC-
SNI study group on human factors, third report. HSE Books, 2003.
[2] International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group (INSAG). Safety culture, a report by the interna-
tional nuclear safety advisory group. Technical Report 75-INSAG-4, IAEA, 1991.
[3] International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group (INSAG). The Chernobyl Accident: Updating of
INSAG-1. Technical Report 75-INSAG-7, IAEA, 1992.
[4] Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Annual statistics report, 2010/11.
[5] International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Developing safety culture in nuclear activities:
practical suggestions to assist progress. Technical Report 11, IAEA, 1998.
[6] Edgar H. Schein. Organisational Culture and Leadership. John Wiley and Sons, 2004.
[7] Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Common topic 4: Safety culture.