Targeting Safety Improvement - Supporting People in Getting Their Work Done

Targeting Safety Improvement - Supporting People in Getting Their Work Done - Steve Wickham

This article is inspired by Dr. Dawn Darlaston-Jones' presentation to the Western Australian Behavior Based Safety (BBS) Working Group in Fremantle, WA on 28 March, 2008. Dr. Darlaston-Jones centered on the role of the bureaucracy in confounding safety management efforts. Traditional modes of safety management have stifled individuals and work teams in working safely as pressure to work safely adds to the complexity of roles. To improve safety, it was argued, we need to reduce 'system' pressure by supporting individuals and teams.
Dr. Darlaston-Jones' hypothesis: to improve safety we need to understand the composite pressures on individuals and teams and then systematically remove these barriers, alleviating the pressures. Organisations need to understand that these pressures come not only from within the organisations themselves, but also from their people's personal lives, and everything in between -- the entire 'context' i.e. the living system. This however, is the final step in effectively managing workplace safety.
The first step is to sort out the organisation's values -- what does it stand for? Values on "Organisational Citizenship" are sought. Those who rate highly on the "Big 5 Test" (for instance) will support most organisational values models as they're intrinsically motivated around issues of moral reasoning, integrity, conscientiousness, work ethic etc. Passion is heavily linked to values. Great results don't come without passion.
Once these are known, the second step is to recruit employees who share and exhibit these values. An additional incremental step is to get the current employees into roles they are most suited to i.e. those who are risk averse and high level thinkers will be most suited to safety-critical jobs. Resilient bodies are needed for heavy, manual handling work etc.
Traditional safety management is built on an "intervention" model but the superior model suggested here is one of "selection." Select the right people and get them in the right positions. Jim Collins uses the bus analogy. Get the right people on the bus to begin with and then sort out the seating arrangements.
The best people to recruit and work hard at retaining are those with good conflict resolution and communications skills. These people both seek and know how to deal with feedback. These people have an understanding of what they're best at and what they're passionate about (referencing Jim Collins' "Hedgehog Concept"). Equally, great organisations have this understanding too.
Dr. Darlaston-Jones said that one key communications strategy should be to encourage more relational resilience. People should be taught how to take criticism; it is a societal ill in our culture. People do not know how to address offences. This is where the traditional model of safety management falls down. It is easy to manage safety in a way that builds up resentment between individuals and teams, and "the system." We must not build in resentment in relationships if we want to succeed. We must also endeavor to create perceptions where people see "the system" as aiding them, and not an "add-on," creating additional pressure. The system must support people.
Open and honest (360 degree) communication is a must. "Management needs to listen to and really hear the feedback from the ground floor -- it is the people who work in the specific context who are best suited to providing appropriate guidance in relation to safety practices. This creates and reinforces a culture of robust constructive debate rather than paper pushing [and] form filling. If employees see management taking their concerns seriously and building systems that reflect the reality they work in then it builds feelings of trust which provides the framework for genuine commitment to safety -- this also encourages the discussion of all accidents and incidents rather than encouraging workers to hind or minimise these." - Dr. Darlaston-Jones.
Effective safety management should be about "creating wellbeing." There should be a wellbeing framework that is understood by all individuals and teams. Management should understand people's frameworks and then support them in it. By creating well-being we try and understand pressures on people and then see if we can systematically remove these pressures or somehow alleviate them.
*Jim Collins wrote "From Good to Great"

Copyright © 2008, Steven John Wickham.  All Rights Reserved Worldwide.Steve Wickham is a safety and health professional (BSc) and a qualified lay Christian minister (GradDipDiv). His passion in vocation is facilitation and coaching; encouraging people to soar to a higher value of their potential. Steve's key passion is work / life balance and re-creating value for living and an exploration of the person within us, and especially the breaking of gener ational curses.Article Source:  Article Source:

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