Anyone who has worked in safety and takes it seriously knows this tragic story. A company hires a new safety guy. He is told that one of the core guiding principles for the company is safety. Leaders are eager to have a professional enter and organize a really great program to bring down the percentage of injuries and lower the direct and indirect cost of those injuries.
Eager to accomplish great things and make real change for the company, the new safety person reviews all the records and accident reports. He performs walk-throughs and evaluates any potential dangers and processes.
He creates new forms so that the process for accident and incident investigation can be improved. He performs a root cause analysis. He starts training and interviewing workers and managers to discover what other needs might exist.
Then all of a sudden, supervisors are too busy to attend safety training. They refuse to properly complete the forms. They begin to complain that the safety person is asking for too much paperwork from them. The well-intentioned safety person is frustrated because instead of cooperation, he receives opposition. Company politics just slaps safety culture upside the head, so to speak.
It is not uncommon to run into department heads and company leaders who are very protective and defensive of their section and responsibilities. They believe that uncovering a problem in their department is a personal attack on their character or leadership. This defensive attitude by department and company leaders often leads to a mistaken belief that safety is the responsibility of the safety department. The safety department should do its job instead of adding additional, time-consuming paperwork on them. They might even argue that the overeager new safety guy is trying to implement things that are quite exorbitant.
After a while, the safety leader realizes that his job will be much more difficult than originally anticipated. Company politics impeded true safety culture, fostered on mutual respect and cooperation.
If you find yourself frustrated because of this problem, there is something that might help. Part II of this article will discuss how to make what is called a keystone change. Basically it is determining one key change that can be implemented that everyone is willing to support and that the results create a big impact. The results from this powerful action results in the door opening to another keystone change. The domino effect occurs until gradually, over time the company culture is transformed and when it comes to safety, company politics fall in line with it as well.