Human factors briefing note no. 9 – Safety culture

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EI Publications

  • Published: July 2011
  • REF/ISBN: 9780852936085-9
  • Edition: 2nd
  • Status: New

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Any group of people develops shared attitudes, beliefs, and ways of behaving. These form a ‘culture’. In a safe organisation, the pattern of shared assumptions puts safety high in its priorities. Source: Reference 1.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) developed the International Safety Management (ISM) Code and strongly promotes safety culture via the adoption of this code. “Effective implementation of the ISM Code should lead to a move away from a culture of ‘unthinking’ compliance with external rules towards a culture of ‘thinking’ self-regulation of safety – the development of a ‘safety culture’. The safety culture involves moving to a culture of self-regulation, with every individual – from the top to the bottom– feeling responsible for actions taken to improve safety and performance.” Source: IMO http://www.imo.org/

The workforce may feel that their company has a good safety culture, without necessarily being able to explain why they think so. This is because, although safety culture is a powerful influence on safety performance, culture itself is not directly visible. If colleagues and managers generally show a positive attitude to safety in what they say and how they act, this would be evidence of a good safety culture. Having a good safety management system that employees believe in, and especially if they participated in building it, is also a sign that the company has a good safety culture.

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