10 simple things you can do to improve your company’s safety

by Decebal Leonard Marin

I’ve been wanting to write this list for a long time. Its content reflects the experience of safety improvement programs, implemented in various international companies operating in Romania.

1. Be a safety leader, not a manager. Without people to follow you willingly, there is no leadership. Safety is a team sport.

2. Focus on people, not on paper and equipment. 100% compliance does not solve more than 20% of safety issues.

3. Don’t punish people for safety. Build the psychological safety that people need to talk openly about risks and accidents.

4. Abandon the “zero” ideology and focus on prevention. In an imperfect world you can’t come up with perfect or absolute solutions.

5. Discuss with people how they think and make decisions about risks; replaces the monologue with dialogue. Use the language that inspires and builds acceptance and understanding of risk.

6. Accept that people, starting with you, are vulnerable, wrong, and sometimes out of their own control. Help them understand their own weaknesses, prejudices, and limitations.

7. Stop telling people what not to do, help them think and learn. Quality training makes the difference; it’s more about soft-skills than technical knowledge.

8. Understand the secondary risks introduced by the chosen solutions from the risk control pyramid. Prepare people to understand and address the new risks.

9. Notice how culture influences people’s behavior. Culture includes common values, relationships, social validation, language, discourse and signage, collective habits, stories and heroes of the organization.

10. As safety is a “wicked problem”, binary thinking like black and white, cause-effect, does not work. The quality of the questions is more important than the search for solutions.