Dr Paul Cummins on Safety Culture Leadership at the IOSH Ireland East Branch Conference 2023
3 min read
The conference theme was ‘The Basics of Good Leadership in Health and Safety’. It aimed to provide valuable knowledge on effective health and safety leadership and how to instil a positive safety culture in an organisation.
Measuring and Leading Safety Culture
Paul’s presentation focused on ‘Measuring and Leading Safety Culture’. He discussed the prevalence of behaviour-based accidents and incidents across all organisations and cited this reality as a direct reflection of the safety culture within. Paul acknowledged that many organisations flounder when trying to determine how they can shift their safety culture in a positive direction and are unsure how to inspire active participation from their workforce.
Paul underscored the need for health and safety systems to be designed, delivered and implemented meaningfully to engage the workforce with the process. He addressed the problem with traditional behaviour-based safety programmes, which are transactional and observational, and fail to connect with workers.
Employees need to feel involved, empowered, heard, and respected through open communication and health and safety practices that are relevant to their day-to-day activities. Paul recommended that health and safety be made simple, visual and personal, asserting that you must win the hearts and minds of your workforce to develop a positive and sustainable safety culture in your organisation.
Leadership, Saftey Ownership and Local Feedback
He then highlighted the crucial role that strong leadership plays in establishing a positive safety culture. Leaders must model the behaviour they want to see from their employees; health and safety must be lived from the top down and made a core value of the business. When employees see that their leaders take safety seriously, they are more likely to follow suit.
In addition to leadership, Paul explained the transformative safety culture roles of local feedback, safety ownership, and prioritising behaviour rather than basic compliance and ineffective box-ticking exercises. He also stressed that an organisation must measure its existing safety culture before attempting to effect cultural change.
Measuring Your Safety Culture
Paul introduced the SeaChange Safety Culture Growth Model© – a five-phase model on which SeaChange positions an organisation’s current safety culture before developing tailored solutions to support successful and measurable safety culture growth. To illustrate the impact of this process, Paul presented a client case study involving this best practice initiative.
SeaChange’s services were engaged by an expansive food production company with six locations across three regions. The organisation had struggled to shift its safety culture and sustain safety performance, despite already having well-established safety programmes and procedures. Employing innovative proprietary tools, SeaChange designed, developed and implemented a transformative two-phase safety culture programme tailored to the needs of each company location.
A Safety Culture Footprint analysis accurately measured the client’s existing safety culture. It was achieved by completing 60 workshops with a 20% sampling of the workforce over six months. The second phase of safety culture growth involved bespoke Safety Ownership and Leadership programmes.
Safety Culture Transformation
After a three-year collaboration, the tangible results were profound. The SeaChange Safety Culture growth programme boosted staff engagement by 80%, significantly improved safety behaviour across 12 key areas (e.g. PPE, housekeeping), and near-miss reporting increased by a staggering 52%. The company had achieved a positive and sustainable safety culture.
Paul reiterated that creating a positive safety culture requires commitment from all levels of an organisation. By measuring your current safety culture, engaging employees in the safety process, encouraging open communication, and leading by example, you can create a sustainable world-class culture of safety that will benefit your employees and your business.
Book your free consultation with our SeaChange experts today and learn more about safety culture and its sustainable implementation within your business.