Empowering employees with the New Views of Safety

What are the New Views of Safety? What are the principles behind Safety Differently and Human and Organizational Performance (HOP)? How could the principles work as an inspiration for how we communicate and engage in safety? How do we use this to empower employees? These are all questions we answered in our last Safety Panel meeting.

A not so new concept but currently a rapid growing movement

The ‘New Views of Safety’ is a global movement personified by Sidney Dekker and Todd Conklin and their principles behind Safety Differently and Human and Organizational Performance (HOP), advocating for a new approach to Safety management and employee empowerment.

The priciples originate as a response to a growing safety bureaucracy for employees and leaders, who are being held accountable for low number of LTIs, Hazards, medical treatments etc. – all safety success being measured based on negatives. The result is a growing disengagement in safety initiatives from employees and organizational functions, who are looking for competency, common sense, and instructions fit for the job at hand. 

It hit a nerve with top management

It's got a one size fits all approach but it definitely seems to hit a nerve with top management, as well as the ones who do the safety critical work every day who in many cases, experience that safety performance is at a standstill and lacks progression.

The principles

Safety Differently

  1. Safety is not defined by the absence of accidents, but the presence of capacity.
  2. Workers aren’t the problem; workers are the problem-solvers.
  3. We don’t constrain workers in order to create safety, we ask workers what they need to do in order to work safely, reliably and productively.
  4. Safety doesn’t prevent bad things from happening. Safety ensures good things happen, while workers do work in complex and adaptable work environments.

Human Performance

  1. Error is normal; even the best people make mistakes.
  2. Blame fixes nothing.
  3. Learning and improving are vital. Learning is deliberate.
  4. Context drives behavior. Systems drive outcomes.
  5. How you respond to failure matters. How leaders act and respond counts.

In the pure form of principles, they appear universal and something you could apply to all work situations:

  • People want to do a good job, 
  • People make mistakes, 
  • People respond to encouragement,
  • Behavior is influenced by culture,
  • People want to make sense of their work

How do you actually build capability with strategic safety communication?

It’s about using Near Miss reporting, Corrective actions, or Continuous improvementin new and more involving ways to drive development and learning in the organization. And recognizing that the experts are the actual people who do the safety critical work on a daily basis.

3 Key steps to empower employees to take action and share progress along the way:

  1. Establish the why
    An emotional connection inspires behavior. Collect insights and devise an eye-opening story that sets the scene and can inspire your target group.
  2. Put leaders in front
    Appoint someone to take leadership amongst the front-line employees and equip the ‘ambassadors’ in their role. Use a versatile, common framework to facilitate the link between the vision and people’s every day work situations.
  3. Translate capability into actions
    It’s not new that culture eats strategy for breakfast. So, make room for local ownership and adaptation and create authentic experiences that people can learn from, engage with and share with colleagues. 

The above might be framed differently based on another area of expertise than employee communication, but we know that this works with employee engagement.

The Open Safety Panel is a network of 15 different international companies who all have Health & Safety high on the agenda. The panel meets 2-3 times a year under different topics with the purpose to share best practice and develop new ideas on how to build a strong safety culture. If you want to know more, contact me on [email protected]


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