Safety culture

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Walt Koelln
  • 94 AW Chief of Safety
During the investigation following the 1986 Chernobyl power plant (nuclear)
disaster in the Ukraine, investigators identified a "poor safety culture" as
contributory. In a similarly titled article in this month's edition of
Safety+Health Magazine, the author tries to identify what exactly "safety
culture" means. Quite honestly, a debate has ensued as to what the
differences might be between "safety culture" and "safety climate"; and I
might add a third, "safety attitude".

You know what? Who cares?!? Who cares what you call it? Are you safe? Do
you manage risk? Do you assess risk both at work and at home and mitigate
it? Do you share risk management and assessment techniques and information
with family and friends? Well, then you have contributed to a safety
culture, safety climate, and have a safety attitude and mindset. And that,
my friends, is what is most important.

Here are some quotes from Safety Industry experts worth contemplating.

"safe*ty cul*ture n 2: "Everyone does the safe thing whether anyone is
watching or not." ~ Steve Simon, Culture Change Consultants

Do you speed? Only 1 or 2 MPH? Do you do a "California rolling stop" at a
stop sign? Do you run a red light when no one is at the intersection but
you? Remember...humans are creatures of habit...if you do something wrong
99% of the time "when no one's watching" and then need that skill during a
"critical phase of flight" as we say in the flying business, you will revert
to your habitual behavior which can get you in trouble.

"safe*ty cul*ture n 3: "Collective values and norms an organization has
regarding safety." ~ Terry Miller, National Safety Council

We in Safety like to say everyone is an extension of the Safety office.
EVERYONE! Not just leadership. Not just the Safety professionals. Not
just your Unit Safety Representative. Everyone. Period. What does that
mean? Well, when you walk by something or someone that is unsafe, correct
it on the spot and/or report it. Dobbins has a marvelous safety record
largely because we collectively have a safety mentality. We aren't perfect,
so keep an eye out for that hole in the grass creating a tripping hazard.
Or that dude up on a building wearing a harness but not strapped to
anything. Or that unsafe parking situation. Or that motorcycle rider who
doesn't have on the right Personal Protective Equipment. We all benefit
when we all work safety together.

"safe*ty cul*ture n 4: "The enduring value and priority placed on worker
and public safety by everyone in every group at every level of an
organization." ~ Terry von Thaden, University of Illinois at

Well, that nails it. Everyone. Period. Thanks to all of you for your
safety attitude and mindset, which establishes a safety climate at Dobbins,
and ultimately ensures we exist in a safety culture. Please share this
safety culture at home. We hope you have an enjoyable and safe autumn and
holiday season. Be safe!

Quote source: "Safety Culture: What is it, and how do you know you have it," by
Kyle W. Morrison, senior associate editor, Safety+Health Magazine, October 2010