Opinion

How to build a stronger safety culture with your team

As Australia’s economy tries to adjust to a new normal after the emergence of Covid19, businesses are facing many new challenges. Our clients have seen that these changes have had both positive and negative impacts on the transport industry’s safety culture.

With no expectation that things will go back to the way they were, managing change and protecting your team will be continue to be critical to business success in coming months.

Below are some tips on how can leaders and managers take the good from this disruption to strengthen and build a stronger safety culture with their wider team.

Firstly, what is a strong safety culture?

If you think of safety culture as “what we do around here”, a strong safety culture is one which;
• Teams take ownership and respectfully hold each other accountable
• Clear policies and procedures are communicated, adhered to and regularly reviewed
• Incidents and near misses are openly reported, discussed and learning implemented and shared
• WHS is taken seriously, and prioritised

This doesn’t always mean the most extensively documented policies/practices; which can sometimes be counter to a productive safe culture (creating confusion and a focus on writing down instead of doing). Rather safety culture is observable attitudes, beliefs and behaviour, supported by clear documented policies/practice; which are also found to consistently deliver stable productive teams and business results (better work = safer work)

Many businesses spend thousands on implementing processes, safety systems and technology – but with safety culture key to their success, isn’t it worth spending a bit more time and effort to check with your team that they’re working and that you are getting the desired business result.

Part of the NTI safety leadership and culture programme NTI Traction involves measuring the views of teams. Through these insights one of the most frequent opportunities to improve is by getting consistency between leaders and their teams, or different depots or roles in the business. Safety culture, where not led from the top, tends to emerge in different ways in different teams or groups.

Can Safety Culture affect, or be affected by change?

A strong safety culture is based on basic business foundations of leadership, communication and team work and these value will help any business going through change. In recent times, we have seen more leaders actively keeping across changes, whether they are externally or internally

driven, and communicating with teams.

Getting staff engaged has always been key to making sure change is adopted successfully, and the biggest influence on that hands down is leaders.

Where it hasn’t gone well, the most common examples of resistance in Transport come when;
• Staff or leaders don’t understand why a change is happening, or what it means to them;

• We don’t give enough training or support to help people learn and become confident; or

• The change isn’t led by the top with good role models, and everyone walking the talk

So how can you maintain a great Safety Culture over time?

1. Leaders must be role models – nothing destroys

culture faster than a ‘do what I say, not what I do’ approach. A strong safety culture is consistent and is observed in what everyone does, what they believe and how they act and treat others.

2. Really listen to your team – conversation and listening is time well invested in them and your business. Regular conversations, messages and updates will help keep values and goals aligned, and create a collaborative environment where everyone feels they can make an important contribution.

3 Don’t be afraid of mistakes – A good safety culture isn’t neccesarily one that makes no mistakes. The difference in an openness to admit them, and then to learn and share that learning with others.

4. Be honest – your team will respect you.

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