From Good to Great – Benchmarking Your Safety Journey

What makes a safety culture “good” and how do you know whether your company has a “good” one?

If yours isn’t “good”, how can it be made “better” or even “great”?

The answer to these fundamental questions can be found by benchmarking where your organisation lies on its safety journey and mapping out how it can best progress.

The journey to safety culture maturity

Through studying the key factors that exemplify a strong positive safety culture, Sentis created a model of safety culture maturity that depicts the journey that organisations take as they progress their safety culture toward the goal of safety excellence. At the pinnacle, or most mature point of the journey, organisations are described as achieving a culture of ‘Safety Citizenship’.

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The role of ‘discretionary effort’

At the highest level of cultural maturity on the Sentis Safety Culture Maturity Model, organisations have successfully developed a culture of discretionary effort, or one where employees are willing to do more than merely comply with rules and regulations and go the extra mile, in the interests of a positive safety culture.  Such discretionary effort cannot be forced, but it can be developed. This approach focuses on positive employee engagement with good leadership as the lever to unlocking the business benefits of discretionary effort.

The stages leading to ‘discretionary effort’

Drawing on extensive research, which was recently recognised internationally by the Society for Industrial and Organisational Psychology, this model identifies progressive stages in employee safety motivation, and in safety behaviour.

Safety motivation in employees progresses from first being ‘absent’, to then being ‘externalised’ through rewards and punishments, to lastly being ‘internalised’ around things that matter to employees as individuals, to their team, and finally to their company.

Likewise, safety behaviour in employees progresses through first, the attitude of ‘just get the job done’ (irrespective of safety concerns), to then being compliant when watched, to next being compliant by choice, to finally going ‘above and beyond’ (discretionary effort) in support of the team and the company.

The clear message is:  Discretionary effort is the mark of a mature safety culture.

‘Discretionary effort’ is evident in a safety culture where employees:

  • Take on additional safety duties
  • Routinely raise safety-related improvement ideas
  • Consistently look out for the wellbeing of co-workers.

Companies will have achieved a positive safety culture when employees see their personal health and safety as inextricably tied to the success of their organisation.

And another thing:  with a workforce operating at this optimum level of safety culture maturity, positive lag indicators will follow suit.

What is the business case for diagnosing Safety Culture Maturity?

The short answer is simple: because diagnosing where your company is sitting with respect to safety culture maturity means that you can create a safety culture intervention that suits the needs of your business.  Think of the Safety Culture Maturity Model as a roadmap – it isn’t necessarily an easy journey, but it shows you where to begin and how to progress towards your goal of safety culture excellence.

For more information on safety culture and building an organisation of Safety Citizens, contact us.


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