Creating an effective safety culture

DekraFollowing the DEKRA Middle East Safety Forum 2018, Daryl Wake, senior consultant at DEKRA Organisational Reliability Ltd discusses the role of leadership in promoting an organisational culture that is supportive of outstanding safety performance

Can you provide an overview of workplace safety compliance in the UAE?

Both at a federal and emirate level, there are workplace health and safety regulations in the UAE. These are the minimal requirements for organisations to meet and to comply with these standards and organisations are required to provide appropriate awareness and support. Furthermore, to raise standards many companies in UAE endeavour to implement international standards such as ISO45000 (formerly OSHAS 18001).

From our 20 years’ experience in the GCC region, we see that many organisations have the absolute intent to be compliant but sometimes there is a lack of understanding of the safety leadership skills needed to move beyond compliance to commitment.

Forced compliance is not the solution. Willing compliance and commitment is the desired outcome and this is achieved by authentic leadership at all levels including frontline supervisors. It taps into personal values and one’s personal motivations to exhibit care for others and for the work being done. In essence, it hinges on front line workers exhibiting helpful safety behaviours because ‘around here, it’s just who we collectively are…even when we know no one is looking’.

Willing compliance and commitment is possible to achieve by line managers rolling up their sleeves and spending time observing the work being done and giving feedback on it directly in the moment (be it success or guidance feedback).

What are some of the common workplace problems in the UAE and how has DEKRA helped organisations to overcome these?

The most common workplace challenges affecting safety performance which we normally encounter are – Leadership, Culture and Employee engagement.

After 40 years of safety research and field experience, DEKRA has established the paramount role of leadership in creating an organisational culture that is actively supportive of outstanding safety performance—a culture which “makes it easy for people to do the right things”. To create such a culture, leaders must personally and purposefully take action to influence the organisation’s Enabling Safety Systems (HSE Management Systems) and Sustaining Organisational Systems (HR / People Systems) to eliminate exposure to hazards at the working interface (e.g. the sharp end – coal face).

As an example, an organisation can have a great policy such as “If an employee gets injured, the line gets stopped.” It may even be in the performance goals for supervisors that the line gets stopped. BUT if the culture is such that everyone knows you don’t stop the line if it’s minor….THE LINE IS NOT GOING TO BE STOPPED. Culture overrides everything. Our philosophy is that leaders own and create the culture.

Our normal approach when working with our clients is to first understand what is either helping or hindering their organisation. One of the solutions that we offer is the Organisational Culture Diagnostic Instrument (OCDI) that is predictive of safety performance. OCDI scores allow the organisation’s leaders to benchmark how their organisation ranks in comparison to hundreds of organisations and identify appropriate targets for improvement.

Additionally, we support leaders to understand the importance of their role in impacting organisational culture. Our comprehensive Leading with Safety™ methodology, enables leaders to demonstrate safety leadership best practices and activate a transformative and authentic leadership style founded on a passion to achieve a culture that supports zero injuries.

To enhance employee engagement we have helped companies at over 3,500 globally to implement our Behavioural Accident Prevention Process™ (BAPP™) technology with remarkable results. The BAPP™ system engages employees at all levels in the continuous improvement of safety by focusing on the working interface; that is, the interaction of all the factors that influence injury causation: conditions, management systems, and the things people do. This process helps organisations to internally assess and leverage the working interface to achieve real and lasting safety improvement.

What is meant by ‘Behaviour Based Safety Isn't Dead (it's just completely different)’ and how so?

There are those that say "BBS" has run its course or it has been misused and such. There is truth is that BBS has been misused at times, however recent independent research undertaken by the University of Cambridge has proved that a behavioural approach, and in particular DEKRA’s Behavioural Accident Prevention Process™ (BAPP™) technology is a robust way for organisations to reduce the exposures that cause injuries. While we did the work to put the data together, we have been very excited to have the independent verification of the University of Cambridge.

We have learned that a behavioural approach amplifies improvement in injury performance when:

• Observations are coached, and a strategy of focused observations based on exposure and historical data is used

• Rather than everyone in the organisation undertaking observations, the group of observers should be big enough to have impact but small enough to keep highly functional

• Observers are highly effective in the conversation they have and the data they gather

• Organisations rotate the group of observers to keep them refreshed and energised

• Organisations have observers who specialise in areas where they know the job and the exposures (e.g. it is best to have electricians observing electrical tasks)

• High-quality details are collected and data is used to remove problematic behavioural issues

In consolidating these findings, the vision for excellence in ‘Exposure Based Safety’ (EBS) is to have a small, rotating and specialised group of ‘firefighters’ (Observers) who are of a size that the organisation can support, coach, and mentor to keep the EBS process effective in removing exposure, reducing injury rates and bring about culture improvements.

What are some of the interventions that can help prevent serious injuries and fatalities (SIF) in the workplace?

A fundamental concept in occupational safety for many decades has been Heinrich’s Safety Triangle. This simply says that the frequency of injuries goes down as severity goes up – i.e, there are more medical treatment cases than lost time cases, and more lost time cases than fatalities. The Heinrich Safety Triangle has been interpreted by the safety community as telling us that if we reduce the number of less severe injuries, we will reduce the number of more severe injuries as well – ‘shrink the bottom of the triangle and you shrink the top’.

However, national data over the past 10 years shows medical treatment injuries steadily declining, but fatalities remaining level. This is inconsistent with how the Heinrich Triangle has been interpreted and raises questions about its validity.

Recent DEKRA led studies have concluded that there are several very specific SIF interventions that really can make a difference. Some of these being:

• Life-Saving Rules (LSR’s) – Organisations should be judicious about which rules they select and how many are selected for the organisation as ‘one list does not fit all’.

• Infield verification of Critical Controls – Atul Gawande makes a compelling argument in his book ‘The Checklist Manifesto’ that breaking down complex, high-pressure tasks into small steps can radically improve everything from airline safety to heart surgery survival rates.

• Pre-task risk assessments – We have found that collaboration, involvement and expertise is key with pre-task risk assessment.

• Incident Management handling processes – Our research has highlighted that SIF incidents have different causes than those that are less severe. It is estimated that only 21 per cent of lower severity incidents have SIF potential. Organisations need to re-evaluate their Incident Investigation protocols.

Alain Charles Publishing, University House, 11-13 Lower Grosvenor Place, London, SW1W 0EX, UK
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