Assessing, improving, or developing an organisation’s safety culture is not new to us at Green-Jakobsen. We have been working closely with many shipping companies globally – tankers, bulkers, offshores – in their endeavours to build their desired safety cultures. All these companies, of course, aim at establishing the best-fit safety culture for their unique characteristics and strategy; the one that is proactive and resilient, where safety is embedded in everything they do and is proven to be above the line of compliance.
Organisations with a proactive and resilient safety culture are on a non-stop improvement journey. They continuously identify areas of good safety performance to learn from and build on. They address signs of poor safety behaviour before anything goes wrong. Not only do they have a continuous improvement mindset, but they also have the capacity to adapt to changes and come out on top of unique situations.
The reason is that building such a culture involves acting in advance of a future situation rather than just reacting, and taking control rather than just adjusting to a situation, waiting for something to happen, or merely following procedures. Successful companies acknowledge the fact that they can only truly assess, understand, and manage a situation when they actively participate. For this, they take actions to listen to, involve and support their seafarers and office staff.
At Green-Jakobsen, we believe that improving a safety culture is not a one-time event nor an overnight process. We see it as a journey that our clients shall embark on and stay dedicated to. Journeys do not need to be difficult. Our practices towards a proactive and resilient safety culture make the journey of our clients structured, near-practice, and worthwhile.
The following are examples of some of our practices that can serve as signs to look for in order to see if you are on the right track towards a proactive and resilient safety culture. They are people-related because in this journey towards such a culture, it will be the people in the organisation who carry initiatives and bring about new behaviour and mindset at the workplace.
In any endeavour, a development pathway is a powerful tool for an organisation. Designing well-thought roadmaps for our clients enables every individual in the organisation to visualise what their journey towards proactive and resilient safety culture looks like and how they can contribute to its progress. Everyone in the organisation has a role to play and understands as well as shares the same vision.
We always challenge the ideas that safety culture should be led from afar. Our belief is that those who are doing the job should always be involved in discussing, assessing, and developing safety performance.
So, what we mean about placing them in the centre of the journey is that they should, to a high degree, initiate the initiatives to improve the safety culture. They should also be made accountable for making the way forward – this can only happen if they understand what it is about, what is expected from them, and how they can integrate the ideas presented in their daily work. How can they promote or support it? If the HSQE department is only aware of it, then it sticks there. Consider that the crew might not think it is their business. Often, we experience, they view it as yet another initiative that someone in the office has imposed on the vessel.
Throughout the years we have observed that a common key challenge among organisations with weak safety cultures, is to make their people live out the organisational culture. A crucial success factor is to trigger a behavioural movement towards specific work tasks; this makes people actually relate to the company’s culture. For this, translating the envisioned culture to tangible behaviours and linking the latter to work tasks is the way to integrate the high-flying safety principles into daily work practice.
We believe that when delegating responsibilities to our people for assessing, discussing, and developing their safety performance, we should make them capable of doing so – meaning, we must empower them.
We see the mobilisation of people as:
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