Monday, November 26, 2012

Mud – Growing a vibrant safety culture

Safety pros seem to frequently find themselves in a situation in which the safety culture is murky at best. One of my favorite analogies for safety culture is a word picture of fish swimming in a pond. Different kinds of water grow different kinds of fish and bad water leads to bad fish.


When you become a part of this kind of safety culture you need to clean out the mud. Going to a single type of filter, like a focus on just regulations, or observations, or conditions clears up some of the mud, but not all of it. There are other impurities in the culture that are not all that obvious, yet these bad water elements must also be removed if a zero-incident safety culture is to thrive. This is why I favor a robust safety culture survey and individual interviews with workforce personnel. Once you have a thorough culture analysis it is possible to pick out and pick off the cultural impurities that are sickening the people you have to deal with up and down the food chain (organization levels).

The next step in the process of improving safety cultures after removing the obstacles (mud) switches to a land based analogy. The word picture here is ‘you can’t pull grass to make it grow.’ The water is pure enough, we need to nurture our people if they are to improve and thrive without injury or incident. As our people across the food chain participate in error proofing the fundamental safety processes, they build in safety accountabilities (activities) that deliver consistent process excellence at all levels of the organization. Developing safety culture excellence goes beyond water purification. This important goal must also include developing our people and their ability to daily do what it takes to deliver excellence. And you can’t pull the grass; you must keep nurturing, reinforcing, relentlessly staying focused on the never ending issues (weeds) that seem just to happen in the organizations we live in.

And there you have it, the key to safety culture excellence; remove the obstacles and weeds while nurturing the people across the whole spectrum of your business realities.

Well, yes, in fact I do live on a small farm.

The Doc


  1. I've seen this full video at a company I previously worked for. It is incredibly difficult to find. What's the name of this video and where can I purchase it?

  2. This video is a clip from our S.T.A.R.T. program that was reshot and updated last year. It can be found here:


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