What does safety culture actually look like?

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Dupont Bradley Curve.

An ‘effective safety culture’ is the holy grail of safety that we are all trying to reach. Just like in the movies, the path is long, hard and filled with trials to test you and divert you. One route map that shows the way is provided by the Bradley Curve (Dupont). This leads companies through the stages of reactive, dependent, independent and interdependent as safety culture improves and injury rates fall.

As companies progress along the curve they become empowered; people gain confidence to support and challenge each other.

The question is: Where are you on this curve, and how are you going to move yourself to the next stage?

Here is a quick overview of what each of the stages could look like:

Reactive

Safety is seen as the role of the H&S manager. He is acting as a shield in case anything goes wrong, when people expect him to be able to put in a ‘quick fix’. Company departments often sit in silos with little interaction. Managers have their own priorities and will fight to ensure they are met, even if there is cost to other parts of the business. The workforce often lacks time to do things properly and may take short cuts. They don’t like to raise issues as they will be seen as trouble makers creating extra work. Compliance is the goal, and there is lots of box ticking to prove that you are there.

Dependent

Rules and procedures have been developed that everyone is expected to follow. This is a condition of employment. If people stick to this, then incident rates will fall. Training makes sure everyone knows what to do, supervisors are in control and auditing and inspections make sure they are compliant. If there is an incident then someone didn’t follow the rules and must be at fault.

Independent

People take responsibility for themselves. They are looking to improve their own knowledge and working practices so they can make a difference. They understand the importance of standards and a commitment to company goals, and the role that they can play in achieving these. People are recognised as having good habits that keep them safe.

Interdependent

Employees work as teams, taking responsibility not only for themselves but also those around them. (others keeper) They support each other in getting the work done in the best way possible and low standards are not accepted. Active discussions ensure everyones view is understood. Zero injuries is seen as the goal and people have pride as the company moves towards this.

The Bradley curve describes the different stages as companies develop. There are, of course, other models out there. Just consider this one for a minute. Picture your organisation, how people interact, what their expectations are and put your company on this scale.

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