How to improve safety culture in organizations


Previously, the concept of the term “safety culture” was discussed; this part mainly focuses on the elements of culture (Figure 5.1) and importance of culture on offshore safety. Reason (1997) explored the components of a safety culture consisting of just culture, reporting culture, learning culture, and informed and flexible cultures (Figure 5.2). The researcher also described a Just Culture as an atmosphere of trust.

People are proactive to provide essential safety-related information under Just culture, but they are also clear about distinguishing between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Reporting culture or reporting system related to reporting errors, near-misses, and accidents, is carried out by all the level of an organization. Employees in the organization tend to be active to face their errors rather than hide their


Figure 5.1 GL Noble Denton’s Safety Culture PROFILER Model


Figure 5.2 The Components of Safety Culture (Source: Global Aviation
Information Network, 2004)

It’s important to conclude a common sense of safety culture among all the employees at all levels of an organization. The content of a safety culture should consist of a set of core values and behaviors stressing safety as a priority above cost and production. In other words, the mindset of a safety culture should be human oriented and safety oriented, which is the starting point of any safety culture creating and regulation-making.
However, by reviewing the disasters over the latest 30 years, like Piper Alpha explosion,
Bohai No.2 jack-up sinking, Java Sea capsizing, and the recent Deepwater Horizon blowout, causing huge loss of human life, environment pollution and economy loss in offshore oil and gas industry, weaknesses contributing to poor safety culture and safety management are found to be still existed in the management of the organizations, after reports.

In terms of reviews of accident reporting, these related contributing factors in poor safety culture and safety management can be summarized as the following.
1) Inconsistent creation of safety concept or safety behaviors in leadership.
2) Ill-defined understanding of safety culture and its importance of safety culture in the
development of an organization.
3) The volition of management board bias to production and cost-cutting instead of
safety first and adaptation to human-oriented approaches.
4) The consequences of hazards and the cost of incidents are not analyzed by the
decision level.
5) Lack of executive force in performing safety regulations, HSE, and safety behaviors
in the management.
6) Lower standards and poor commitment to safety goals in the organizations.
7) Bad communication culture at all the levels of an organization.
8) Poor handover procedure in work shift or crew shift.
9) Inadequate allocation of labors and resources, and excessive work load without
considering the capability of staffs.
10) Passive reporting culture in revealing near miss, potential hazards, and accidents.
11) Faulty inspection systems and pre-job safety meeting systems.
12) Training shortage on safety behaviors and safety techniques for identifying risk or
potential hazards in daily work.
13) Absence of training for emergencies and regular safety drill.
14) Less reviewing and learning from past incidents, and root causes of incidents are not

As discussed above, these contributing factors of improving safety culture refined from
review of accident reports can be categorized into the following aspects:

Personnel values and mindset on safety culture: As a core value and stating point of safety culture creating, personnel values and mindset on safety culture includes well-defined understanding of safety cultural impact on management by the leadership and employees at all levels, management commitment to safety, risk perception, and volition of management board on safety culture. The mindset of leadership on safety culture plays an important role in creating a safety culture.

However, there is a universal phenomenon that the leadership naturally or unconsciously bias to production, short-term for a project, and cost cutting over health and safety.

Safety meeting and safety drill aspects: In offshore operations, meetings in offshore
operations including pre-job safety meeting, kick-off meeting, pre-shift meeting and after
work meeting, and weekly safety meeting, convey effective information about the procedure of tasks to be executed and analyze the potential risks in the operations. Staffs involved in the meeting have a clear understanding about the risks in the tasks and tend to take effective risk-reducing measures to minimize or avoid risk. Regular safety drills in offshore oil and gas industry play a significant role in training staffs’ response to emergencies under kinds of work circumstances. And performing safety drills is also a practical way to cultivate staffs’ crisis awareness and risk perception, which can conduct the staffs to nourish safety behaviors.

Procedure and responsibility aspect: Clear and define responsibilities for safety and health at all levels of the organization. To be safe and health must be considered as everyone’s responsibility in the organization. Staffs in the organization should have a common sense that reminding and warning on unsafe behaviors is fulfilling the responsibility for personnel safety, family happiness, and environmental safety.

Barrier-free communication at all the levels: Communication between employees should be carried out through all the levels of an organization.

Learning and reviewing systems: Training system in an organization has a positive
influence on team building and safety performance. Training is conductive to assistant staffs to identify potential risk positively in the work site and conduct the staffs’ safety behaviors to reduce or avoid risk by taking necessary measures. The contents of creating training plan covering all the employees need consists of professional training, skill training, and safety technique training.

Feedback and improvement process: The creation of safety culture is a continuous
improving process with an opening system participated by all the employees at all levels of an organization. Further, safety recommendations should be welcomed and the staffs
contributing to safety creation should be awarded. What’s more, safety performance and
communicate results should be publicized to keep efforts and motivation. Employees
involved in the organization need to be updated during the process. And they are encouraged to have their voice on safety recommendation and improvement for the safety management system.

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