The X Factor: creating a safety culture

June 1st, 2005 by Julie Ferguson

Ever wonder why your loss costs continue to rise despite your organization’s strong safety programs? Or why one of your company’s locations has a much stronger safety performance than another? Larry Hansen does, and he has written an excellent and lengthy article entitled Stepping up to occupational hazards in this month’s edition of Occupational Hazards that explores these issues. He singles out culture as the X Factor (or the ‘excellence differentiator’) in achieving stellar safety performance. Here’s an excerpt:
“In his October 2003 Occupational Hazards article, “Getting the Culture Right,” Don Eckenfelder contends that organizational attitude ultimately determines whether safety initiatives succeed or fail, and proposes three core truths: “1 – Culture predicts performance; 2 – Culture can be measured; and 3 – Nothing is more important than getting the culture right!” The culture of an organization – its basic beliefs and values concerning people – is what drives safety excellence.
Tom Peters and Bob Waterman spent a decade In Search of Excellence, attempting to discover what lies at the core of operational excellence. After years of research, they summarized their findings in a simple, yet powerful message to American management: “Figure out your values system!” Values lie at the core of an organization’s culture, and are the predictors of, and ultimate determinants of, all operational outcomes … safety included.”