From me – Procedural Safety Training…is it putting the cart before the horse?

At Chifley we really only focus on programs/qualifications that
sit inside the business and/or leadership space. The one exception is our
Safety Leadership program, which is a short course designed to ensure everyone
within an organisation develops a positive, committed, active attitude towards
safety…i.e. developing a ‘culture of safety’.

I write this not to ‘plug’ our Safety Leadership program but
simply because in delivering the program it’s become increasingly obvious that
often/traditionally the approach to safety training has been far more
procedural in it’s nature – e.g. ‘don’t leave your gym bag in a place where
someone can trip over it’ (to use a bit of a basic example).

This is fine within itself but, if the people receiving the
training don’t take safety seriously, then they’re unlikely to put the training
into practice (especially if there’s no follow up). A good (or terrible,
depending on how you look at it) example of this is a company (that will remain
nameless for fairly obvious reasons) who gave me a somewhat panicked call to
discuss how they could improve the workforce’s attitude to training and how
quickly it could be implemented.

It transpired that the reason for the urgency was that a maintenance
team of theirs had just been reported, and I quote, ‘working with extremely
hazardous materials with absolutely no protective gear on and in plain sight of
the public’. The team in question had taken part in no small amount of OH&S
training, however, it was all ‘procedural’ in nature and (as I suspect is
unfortunately still the case in a good number of Aussie organisations) the idea
of taking safety precautions such as wearing protective gear was still seen as
‘being ******* soft’ (please insert your own expletives as you see fit).

The point here is, of course, that there’s little point in
training anyone in anything unless they have a mindset/culture that embraces
the concepts and (where OH&S is concerned), as importantly, that everyone
within the organisation understands (and believes) that they all have a
responsibility to ensure a safe workplace….or as one of our Safety Leadership
facilitators, Rob Caroline, is famous for saying “The safety standards of
an organisation are as high as the safety issue that an employee is willing to
ignore” (or words to that effect).

For some time now there has been a push for ‘zero incidents in the
workplace’ (particularly for a company contracting to one of the big mining
organisations where a serious OH&S incident can cost you your contract)
but, what is now putting even more presure on the ‘Powers that be’ to ensure
they provide their staff with the right training and resources to be as safe as
possible is ‘corporate culpability’, where more emphasis is being put on the
responsibility that the board has to ensure a safe workplace for their staff and
the possibility of ‘corporate manslaughter’ charges that this may include.

Sam

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