Safety Culture Excellence®

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Who is Driving Safety?

June 4th, 2014

The leaders of an organization who were asking for my help to improve their safety efforts told me that they were all pushing safety as hard as they could.  I asked them who was driving safety and how long it had been stalled and needing to be pushed.   Almost every leadership team is either neglecting, pushing or driving safety.  Neglect brings on disaster.  The need for pushing often results from previous neglect.  Driving safety almost always results in progress and improvement.

Just as the term implies, driving is giving direction, speed and stability to the safety effort.  Stalled efforts may require some pushing, but well-running efforts simply need drivers.  The most recognized drivers of safety are leadership, supervision, guidelines, and training.  Leaders need to give safety strategic direction.  Supervisors need to steer and correct the daily efforts.  Guidelines, such as rules, procedures, and P.P.E. requirements should provide a road map for the workplace decisions that impact safety.  Training should ensure that everyone knows the guidelines and can also recognize and manage the risks in the workplace that may not be fully covered by the guidelines.

Safety efforts that are strategically driven shape the perceptions and culture of the safety efforts.  The perceptions and culture combine with the training to shape the daily performance.  Supervision keeps the daily performance on track.  The daily performance produces the results that are measured by the lagging indicators of safety.  If your lagging indicators indicate you are not at your desired destination, ask yourself “who is driving?”

-Terry L. Mathis

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Terry L. Mathis is the founder and CEO of ProAct Safety, an international safety and performance excellence firm. He is known for his dynamic presentations in the fields of behavioral and cultural safety, leadership, and operational performance, and is a regular speaker at ASSE, NSC, and numerous company and industry conferences. EHS Today listed Terry as a Safety Guru in ‘The 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS in 2010, 2011 and 2012-2013. He has been a frequent contributor to industry magazines for over 15 years and is the coauthor of STEPS to Safety Culture Excellence, 2013, WILEY.


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