Thursday, January 14, 2010

A safety first culture

Safety in this country is often touted as the “number one priority” yet a great deal of the safety activity in companies is driven by compliance to legislation rather than pro-active safety improvement programs. Therefore not much depth is evident in many safety programs. Contrast safety management, a legislated business requirement, with lean activities. Unless a lean edict has come down the corporate pipeline lean is optional. No legislation requires lean activity. What usually drives lean in companies is a culture that needs repair. A serious lean effort will tear apart an old entitlement riddled culture, with high costs and poor customer service, and build it into something new. Companies with ineffective safety programs that result in poor safety records also have a cultural problem. Present is a culture that does not value, or expect, a safe work place and therefore people act accordingly. The common element is culture – it is the root cause of poor safety and ineffective businesses. It would then make sense that some common methods could be used to drive improved safety and business continuous improvement programs.
It is my strong belief that a lean thinking approach to people management, one that views all the employees of a company as value added assets, is the right approach. It stands to reason that if the culture of a business is “how the people who work there think, act and interact” that you must engage each and every one of them if you are going to positively impact or redirect the culture. Following this cultural path is the true, no, the only, route to world class lean or world class safety.

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