Poseidon Adventure?? Sustaining safety culture, when change (People) is all around?

Some times adapting to change and keeping your own self, can be as nerve wrecking as Irvin Allen’s Master class 1972 movie!!the-poseidon-adventure-wallpapers_26483_1024x768

Change can some times lead to such DILBERT fiascos and all efforts down deep like Titanic! 

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I was asked in my whatsapp by a fellow safety professional? How to sustain Organisation safety culture when leadership change happens! Very challenging question! In my 32 years of Safety implementation, I had encountered very few such situations, where leadership change brought a big jolt to implementing programs/ things! (Of the 9 Managers to whom I reported, only 2 were due their exit from the company. Overall, I had steady interactions with my leaders to work the EHS implementation)

I wont have a magic bullet to shoot and hit bulls eye. No safety solutions ever are. I would do my best. Folks are free to add their views in comment section.

Let’s step back to basics and take it up from there on!

What is Safety Culture?

“The safety culture of an organisation is the product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behaviour that determine the commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, an organisation’s health and safety management. Organisations with a positive safety culture are characterised by communications founded on mutual trust, by shared perceptions of the importance of safety and by confidence in the efficacy of preventive measures.” ACSNI Human Factors Study Group: Third report – Organising for safety HSE Books 1993

So with that definition in, it is easy to see that Culture is what people do when it is from within not forced in to. It takes time to build one. As indicated below the components that go in to building culture (safety culture) are 1) Leadership 2) Company Business culture and its work environment 3) Systems 4) People and their attitude which manifests in to behaviours. So in the first place for a matured safety culture to be in place, the four basic elements are to be well blended and exist in harmony.

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So when a component in the element of safety culture is subjected to change, naturally the impact lead to some adverse consequences. Such instances are common with the departure of leader the legacy disappears soon. Organisations like Dupont, Sandoz, bp have faced issues that have put serious credibility issues over the years! Leaders need to understand first that they were not the guy who let the diaster happen! That is where organisation culture, Business ethics, work environment play a crucial part to adher to “THE VALUES” even in uncertain times! 

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So what to do to sustain culture in midst of people change? (It is assumed that the system, people, environment, behaviour are non variable to a large extent). What can EHS folks do to make sure the leadership buy in to EHS and maintain stauts quo.

    1. Influence upward, look for what leaders expect from you. Deliver that faithfully. As our Super boss Larry Bossidy (Honeywell)  explains in this practical article.
      1. Get involved with your new leader. Establish targets linked to strategy.
      2. Update him on Business portfolio, EHS Major risks so he gets a hang of things. Remember you succeed only when he succeeds.
      3. Generate ideas, Influence upward. Give constant feedback on things that go well above all anticipating ahead things may not go that well.
      4. Colloborate, participate, be his eyes and ears in workplace. EHS changes reach top leadership above the leader very fast!(Believe me!)
      5. Stay Current, EHS topics, Norms, Legislature etc. Think through your feet. Be ready to provide solutions to issues. Reach out to any problem with two solutions, let him pick one.
    2. Be ready to provide solutions based on business environment, solutions that can work in good times, would be ridiculed in bad times. So adpat. 

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  1. From personality side, leaders are classified in to 4 types, Based on task and people focussed, find out what kind of type is your leader is and adapt accordingly. The behavioural pattern are as below to get a clue. 

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As saying goes, nothing is permanant except change and so good EHS managers always expect change and are in sync with it. Very smart managers are able to have educated guess of change that is distant but not visible and adapt!!

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Take it easy, take care, God Bless!


19/5/17 1845 hrs.

Author: Karthik B; Orion Transcenders. Bangalore.

Lives in Bangalore. HESS Professional of 30+ yrs experience. Global Exposure in 4 continents of over 22 years in implementation of Health, Environment, Safety, Sustainability. First batch of Environmental Engineers from 1985 Batch. Qualified for implementing Lean, 6Sigma, HR best practices integrating them in to HESS as value add to business.

One thought on “Poseidon Adventure?? Sustaining safety culture, when change (People) is all around?”

  1. Good to understand the dynamics involved,but is very much challenging to cope up if there is no strong organisation structural base


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