How can a positive safety culture be achieved?

22 April 2016

Safety culture can generally be described as "the way things are done around here" with respect to safety. It encompasses the values, beliefs, and attitudes held within the organisation that guide the way people behave in the workplace.

It is reasonable to expect that a negative safety culture can lead to practices that increase the risk of accidents. Indeed, safety culture has been implicated in several serious organisational accidents in Australia and overseas.

TSV believes that a 'culture of being safe' is a shared responsibility and is an important direction to work towards in the rail industry. This can be done by continuously promoting, reinforcing, and living a culture that is:

Vigilant:  Individuals are vigilant and continuously anticipate that things can go wrong even when the very best safe guards are in place. At the organisation level, there are processes in place to continuously monitor incidents and the factors in the system and the organisation that can give rise to these.

Flexible:  Individuals are able to follow standard practice but are also able to adapt when these safeguards fail.

Just:  A just culture rewards and commends the reporting of errors and only reprimands individuals when their behaviour is truly unacceptable.

Reporting:  When individuals are encouraged to consistently report mistakes, observations, concerns, and near misses, the organisation becomes much more aware of  potential threats to safety that would otherwise be hidden.

Learning: Lessons for improving safety are proactively sought wherever they can be gained. This includes gathering intelligence from near-miss and incident reports, internal and external investigations, audits, developments in industry practice, technology and research, and good practice guidance.

More information about working towards a safe culture will feature in our upcoming Winter edition of Rail Safety News.