A seminar promoting a new approach to safety culture and behavioural safety education marked the launch of a partnership – b.SAFE@Brathay – between Brathay and Beehive, safety culture and human performance consultants.

Senior representatives from safety critical industries explored the concept of psychological risk, safety culture, different views of behaviour change, and tested the benefits of immersive behavioural safety training in the outdoors.

Using the Bradley Curve Model of safety culture transformation, Beehive showed the enormous reductions in accidents and injury rates that have been achieved by the development of safety processes and procedures, regulation and training since the 1950s and 60s, with associated improvements in productivity.

The discussion then centred on how to achieve the next stages of safety culture – independence and interdependence – which have the lowest levels of associated accident and injury. Here it is not simply behaviours but how those behaviours change people’s attitudes towards their own accountability, and build relationships and trust, that will trigger the transformation in safety. This is where organisational development consultancies such as Brathay and Beehive are best placed to develop the relational skills and interdependent mindset needed to achieve this step change. Using the outdoors as a low risk but still safety critical learning environment brings impact and immediacy to behavioural safety training, which the participants had the chance to test out.

The seminar touched on the fact that not all behaviour change is the same. First order change, which is basically doing more or less of what is already done (eg wearing a hard hat every time you go into the work shop, not just when you think it’s important), is often a matter of raising awareness, reminding people what they’re supposed to have done and why, making it as easy as possible and incentivising it.

Second order change, which is transformational, and requires a change to fundamental values, beliefs and attitudes, needs a different kind of approach. It is strategic, takes time, energy, money, and commitment from the top, and is a process, rather than an event. It also requires a different approach to safety education, one that is focused more on individual and organisational development rather than skills training. Misdiagnosis of the kind of change being implemented and therefore the kind of interventions needed to achieve it is a key reason why behaviour change initiatives are not successful in organisations.

"To be leaders in safety we need to be experts in people"
Dr Rob Long, Riskex.com

Another stopper to behaviour change discussed during the day was psychological risk. Making significant changes to behaviours, particularly when it comes to challenging, questioning and anything that requires people to ‘stand up and stand out’, involves psychological rather than physical risk; the risk of humiliation, rejection, or bullying, for example. Creating an environment of trust creates a sense of psychological safety, conducive to open reporting and challenge. Beehive shared the results of research into safety culture and in particular building trust they undertook with Bangor University and Alstom Power Services.

All this is particularly timely, with the imminent introduction of a new international safety standard ISO 45001, focusing on continuous improvement, ensuring employee engagement and visible leadership in safety programmes, and emphasising the need for safety to be ‘built in’ not ‘bolted on’ to business processes. Again, the systemic approach to organisations, used by OD specialists such as Beehive and Brathay, were positioned as ideal to ensure the integration of safety in every function and at every level and Beehive’s SySTEMS Model and activities helped to illustrate the connections between different organisational functions. And, as Dr Rob Long states, safety is all about people not just process. Brathay and Beehive are experts in people, and can help organisations along the road to safety culture transformation.

b.SAFE is Beehive’s safety culture brand.  Another safety culture seminar will be run on 15th September 2017 – for more details contact Erja.Nikander@brathay.com  For more details on how Beehive can support your safety programme go to www.beecld.co.uk or contact sara@beecld.co.uk. For more food for thought please go to https://bsafebuzz.wordpress.com/