Demystifying Safety Culture

Demystifying safety culture: a practical peer-to-peer approach facilitated by WSPS

Case studies consistently show that successful businesses have a strong safety culture, but as WSPS consultant John Hollands notes, "the concept of creating a safety culture to help you grow your business is still pretty fresh." In response to growing interest, he now facilitates a series of networking and knowledge exchange (NKE) meetings for operational leaders - people responsible for managing health and safety in their workplace, regardless of the business size or sector. The next meeting takes place in September.

"We're bringing people together who want to examine safety culture and how it aligns with their needs," says Hollands. "The goal is to build a community of practice. It's ideal for companies with health and safety programs that have reached a plateau and are looking for something that will take their performance to the next level."

He defines safety culture as how people in an organization think and act towards safety. "Positive safety values, attitudes and behaviours all contribute to organizational health, which is a critical success factor in today's business environment. It's correlated with your business performance. Applying performance metrics to measure safety identifies opportunities to improve performance, and an organizationally healthy workplace can align, execute and renew itself faster than its competition. Conversely, the consequences of a poor safety culture - injuries, prosecutions and penalties - directly impact brand reputation and profitability."

Lynn Woods, corporate manager health and safety for Metroland Media, was one of the first who responded to the Safety Culture NKE opportunity. "If you're dealing with a specific challenge," says Woods, "you have a whole network of people acting as resources. Because they're facing the same sort of challenges and constraints, they can offer practical tools and advice that work."

"It's really about integrating safety into your operations and into people's psyche. From a business perspective, operating a safe organization is ethical, it's moral, it helps fulfill our legal obligations, and has been proven to offer cost benefits."

What a Safety Culture NKE meeting looks like

Individual members host half-day meetings at their workplace. The meetings start off with a tour and a presentation by the host, but the participants collectively set the overall agenda and topics of discussion.

"Members clearly want to learn from each other," says John Hollands, "so there are lots of Q&As. 'How did you do this, did it work, what were your challenges...'"

WSPS president and CEO Elizabeth Mills describes the meetings as an opportunity designed by leaders for leaders. "Responding in a safe and productive way to constant change - new technologies, new legislative requirements, even new competition - is hard enough, but leading and managing your people through these changes is harder still. There's no better or faster way to learn than from someone who has already worked through the same experience."

The Safety Culture NKE is the first phase of an evolving strategy led by WSPS to generate a network of support for people who oversee and manage health and safety. WSPS is working with collaborative partners on successive phases. Watch for more in upcoming issues of WSPS Network News.

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