The Concept of Safety Culuture was introduced by Zohar (1980) and later by International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group of International Atomic Energy Agency during safety debate in their analysis of Chernobyl Accident. With the thrust to HSE issues becoming a focus area in the marketplace, on the shop floors, in boardrooms and on negotiating tables in globalised business parlance and production first but safety must is becoming the motto, this concept has been embraced by industries across the board irrespective of type, nature, location and product. operations/services range.

The phrase safety culture consists simply of two words Safety and Culture Whilst safety as the issue which emanated with human in its center has now related to prosperity and sustenance encompassing virtually all aspects of human eneavor. This takes the concept of safety as a synonym of toral loss prevention in industry from the bounds of prevention of human loss, prevention of human injuries and prevention of occupational dieases to sustenance and this fact has increasingly been recognized and accepted. However the term culture has been freely used & misused. There is hardly any clarity of concept between "tradition", and "culture". In violently changing social and business environment, definition of culture which could stand alone could be; "integral sum of values which individuals, group of individuals and the organisations at large conceive & practise". The essence of "practice" is "voluntary". Important aspect is that if the values are only conceived and not practiced, they become "redundant" and are without any "intrinsic value". It is a natural order in human beings that only conceived and not practised, they become "redundant" and are without any "instrinsic value". It is a natural order in human beings that only practise enlivens society and the surroundings. Culture is an integral concept. You don't expect person to be cultured in work environment & a boor in house or vice versa. Behaviour of personnel during mundane day to day situations reflects the culture at the work place. Culture of an organization can be described as mix of shared values, attitudes and patterns of behaviour that gives the organization its particular character. Thus as organisational habit unmindful of who is going by is culture.

Safety culture could be described as the ideas, beliefs, values and actions that all members of the organization share about total loss preventions. A heavily loaded definition of safety culture is; "assembly of characteristics and attiudes in organsisations and individuals, which estiablishes that as an overriding priority safety issues receive attention, warranted by their significance". However a mundane definition of safety culture is "when an incividual does the right thing when nobody is looking at him". Safety culture implies those policies processes (formal, informal, spoken, unspoken, practices, procedures) allowed (created, permitted, expressed, implied) by management which influence (shape, direct, limit, encourage) the attitudes and actions (values, choices, decisions, relationships) of people at work (workers, contractors, supervisors, mangers) which impacts (positive, negative, neutral) safety (plant, personel, property). Some say that It is the way the work is being carried out in the organization.

Safety culture has two major components; organizational framework & attitudes and response of individuals. Universal features of safety culture are;

  • Individual awareness
  • Commitment
  • Motivation
  • Supervision
  • Responsibility

Inculcating safety culture requires personal dedication and accountability of all individuals engaged in any activity which has a bearing on plant safety. It needs and all pervading safety thinking, which allows asn'

  • "Inherently questioning attitude"
  • "The prevention of complacency"
  • A commitment to excellence", and
  • Fostering of both, personal accountability & corporate self regulation" in the safety matters.

Producing safely is becoming a minimum requirement for industrial establishments. Further the recognition the safety performance is as important has production / productivity, better quality and overall improved performance, development of safety culture is getting necessary phillip. In the evolution stage of safety culture, the management has to take the leadership role in setting the expections for safety performance. When individuals from all domains of organization believe genuineness of concern for their safety, these beliefs flow throughout the organization with accountability for safety at every level and the major initiatives aimed at inculcating safety culture can be started.

Amalgamation of very simple concepts like; proactive approach, ownership, continual improvement and excellence is the starting point in development of Safety Culture. Thus to inculcate culture there are three underlying factor, the foremost being ownership, other being continual improvement and third excellence in whatever we do.

Proactive approach & ownership of safety issues will go much beyound mere compliance of statutes. In the developmental stage of this process, every individual should own the action taken to improve safety rather than seeing them as imposed from outside. Mot important single reason for accidents at work is "APATHY". Critical point is not so much the adequacy of safety plans as perception & belief that people hold about them. Improvement may require a change of heart rather than adoption of some standard rechniques. Though the entropy always increases, determined efforts are needed to be made to keep the increase at minimum. Ownership can be attempted in the organizations by switching over from system of comand, control and reaction oriented to participatory and proactive, involving more people and making it a movement.

Continual improvement as they say is journey and never destination more so in this dynamic field of safety. Even role modelling is not enough and they must always look for continuous upgradation.

All these finally can be synthesized in our thought process & deeds in achieving excellence, the underlying factor shall be excellence in all that we do: all activities must have a vision of achieving excellence.

These three principles to all in the organization will start a journey of inculcating safety culture and it is a certainty that the results will be there to be seen and results themselves will sustain motivation to achieve higher and higher.

The importanct aspects for promoting safety culture emerging out of a survey of how company's manage health and safety are:

  • Commitment of top Management including Chief Executive
  • The executive safety role of line management
  • Involement of all employees
  • Openness of communication and demonstration of care and concern for all the stakeholders.

While discussing about various approaches for inculcating safety culture, the stress has been laid on organisation learning and mutual trust and confidence between management and work force. The barriers which might impede the progress of an organisation's plan to such a venture are conceived to be -

1. Expectation of simultaneous adoption of every conceivable measure of the plan throughout the organisation.
2. The breadth of a large number of items likely to be covered in this concept appears both abstract and daunting.

It has been therefore emphasized by experts that while the outcome of well conceived plan to improve safety culture of an organisation may be revolutionary, the plans themselves should be evolutionary. Therefore, a step by step approach is essential.

As per International Atomic Energy Agency Safety Publications, development of safety culture in any organization seems to pass through three stages of development. Each stage can be identified by its characteristic displaying a different awareness and receptiveness of behaviour and attitudes of people involved with the working of that organisation. These characteristics may be used by the organisation to assess its progress in development of safety culture and hence influencing their action plans to achieve the position which the organization aspires to.

These three stages as defined are:

Stage 1:
Safety is complance driven and is based mainly on rules and reuglations. At this stage, safety is seen as a technical issue, whereby compliance with externally imposed rules and reulations is considered adequate for safety.
Stage 2:
Good safety performance becomes an organizational goal and is dealt with primarily interms of safety targets or goals.
Stage 3:
Safety is seen as a continuing process of improvement to which everyone can contribue.
In the first stage, improvements are often a result of improving engineered safe guards and introducing basic systems and procedures for control of hazards. These are often driven by need to meet statutory requirements. At this stage, the organization sees safety as an external requirements and not as an apsect of conduct that will help the organization to succeed. The external requirements are those of Governments, statutory or regulatory authorities. It is the belief that at this stage that safety is the responsibility of the management. There is little awareness of behavioural and attitudinal aspects of safety performance and no willingness to consider such issues.

Safety is very mush conceptualized as merely a technical issue at this stage, where compliance with rules and regulations is considered adequate. Indeed most of the organizations today are quite strong in the first stage.

In the second stage of development, the organization will have developed safety vision or mission and would have established clear processes and procedures for their achievement. At this stage it could be observed that the work is better planned and consideraton of hazards is taken in procedures / plans. Even at this stage in some organizations, safety is still imposed with limited involvement of all. An organization at this stage perceives safety performance as important even in absence of regulatroy pressure. Although, there is growing awareness of behavioural issues, this aspect s largely missing from safety management methods which comprise technical and procedural solution.

Safety performance at this stage is dealt with in terms of targets and goals as other aspects of business are. The organization begins to consider the reasons of plateau in safety performance and is not averse to embracing good practives in other organizations.
Third stage is befitting the words "achieving is a continuing process". At this stage safety related vision, goals and values are shared and safety is in the blood stream of the organization. Poor practices are un-acceptable and avoidable occurrences. This is the self sustaining safety culture.

In the third stage, there is a strong emphasis on learning, assessment, communication, management style, efficiency and effectiveness. Here everyone in the organization can contribute. Behaviour in organization can be seen to be divided in the ones which enables improvements and ones which acts as barrier to further improvement. Consequently all understand the impact of behavioural issues on safety. The level of awareness of behavioural and attitudinal issues is hihg, measures are being taken to synergise behaviour to safety goals. Progress is continual and never stops.

Few practives to develop safety culture in an organization are-

  • In depth analysis of events
  • Errors as learning opportunity
  • Employee's contribution
  • Well structured training
  • Communication of safety issues
  • Predictive measures to analyse risk
  • Self evaluation
  • Learning ability
  • Integrated safety evaluation

Further it is emphasized that there is a strong need to differentiate safety performance from safety culture. There could be some shortlived or even middle term examples of high safety performance without safety culture but the converse will be rarely ture. Few indicators of safety perfromance and safety culture, both negative and positive are narrated below to review one's performance of safety culture.

Examples of safety performance parameters

  • Accident rates and statistics
  • Reportable incidents
  • Breech of parameters of pollutants
  • Effluent discharge
  • Safety systems availability
  • Number of plant trips / forced shutdowns
  • Leakages / discharges resulting in exposure to toxic chemicals Examples of safety culture indicators (Positive)
  • Learning from events
  • Identification and resolution of safety issues
  • % of audit findings clearedu Number of critical employees retrained
  • Managerial safety tours
  • Team work and co-operation
  • Safety suggestions received and implemented.
    • (Negative)
    • Events with repreated root causes
    • Backlog of safety related defects
    • % of audit findings pending to be cleared
    • Breech of procedures / operating instructions
    • Failure to use PPEs.
    • Delay in updating plant and emergency documentation
    • Incomplete modifications
    • Overriding of interlocks
  • To conclude, with inculcation of safety culture, safety becomes an organizational value. Safety culture though has not been mandated in the statute, regulators and enforcing agencies must also assist organizations in strengthening safety culture. This can ensure a continuous march towards excellence in safety perfromance and near zeroing of loss.

Shri MC Agrawal is a BTech from Kanpur, possessing PDIS from TEB, Gujarat.
He has work experience of about 23 years with wide exposure of plant, operations & HSE matters in totality.
During this period, he has worked in different capacities for Project Mgt.commissioning, operation, generating technical data, planning, & execution of Training Programmes, handling of emergency situations.
Presently, Shri Agrawal is heading the HSE Dept of Tata Chemicals Ltd., Mithapur



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