There is no “I” in the word “team,” but according to one of our customers there is an “I” in safety – four of them, in fact. Four “I” words sum up what this customer believes it took to get his organization to begin the safety culture improvement journey.
Illuminate: There is often a lack of understanding of what safety culture really is and how an effective improvement process takes place. There is general knowledge about regulations, the foundational basics of reacting to conditions in an effort to protect employees from the hazards that exist in the workplace. There is usually also some fairly general knowledge of visually recognizing unsafe acts and the need to address those who aren’t doing a job as safely as it could be done. Recognizing unsafe acts and conditions is not enough to achieve non-injury excellence for the people at the workface. There also has to be an illumination of the tools, techniques and commitment the personnel at all levels in an organization must utilize to improve a safety culture. This goes way beyond knowing what to react to; it’s about engaging our people in the relentless pursuit of safety excellence.
Irritate: The illumination knowledge experience must deliver an irritation with the current state of our safety culture reality. Complacency is the death of any initiative, safety or otherwise. The pearl of excellence does not begin without the irritation that initiates the building process. Or to quote another cliché, leading a horse to water doesn’t necessarily make them drink. The leadership of the organization must decide to do begin a journey of safety excellence.
Inspire: Hopefully the Illumination stage of how to do this work coupled with dissatisfaction of the current state delivers enough dissatisfaction/irritation to begin the work necessary to transform the whole safety culture. This next step requires leadership across all levels of the organization to be a catalyst in the inspiration process. Upper management, supervision and hourly personnel must all actively inspire the followers at all levels to engage in the long term commitment necessary to improve what isn’t correct with respect to safety.
Implementation: Understanding the theory does not deliver the solution. Planning what to do must lead to doing what is necessary. Our people must then check on the result of the implementation and actively work on what is necessary to keep improving and delivering an ever growing culture of correct. Just like in the famous quality improvement initiatives Plan – Do – Check – Act is a necessary living, breathing element in implementing a safety improvement process that delivers excellent results.