Safety culture

Published: 30/10/2014

As one of the speakers at the Excellence in Behavioural Safety Conference, which took place 13-15 October in Abu Dhabi, Sanaa Chakibi shares her insights into the world of behavioural safety and operational excellence, with a focus on the need to change the workplace culture.

Together with the conference for Operational Excellence in Oil, Gas and Petrochemicals which took place in the same venue from 14-15 October, the two events brought together more than 250 representatives from leading companies, predominantly in the oil and gas sector in the GCC countries, as well as well renowned safety and operational excellence consultants from around the globe. As one of the speakers at the Excellence in Behavioural Safety Conference under the theme ‘Leading a change in Safety Culture’, I enjoyed sharing some of the latest methods in the world of behavioural safety - a subject that is dear to my heart. I equally enjoyed listening and discussing the notion of operational excellence - the theme of the second conference. As Andy Gibbins, the Vice President of the Euro Petroleum Consultant, said: “It is widely recognised that safety performance and operational excellence are inseparable, because they both require a change in culture.” The word culture was at the centre of most discussions, as everyone seemed to agree on the fact that to achieve both safety and operational excellence the focus must be on changing the culture at the workplace. It is truly heart warming to see companies in the MENA region discussing how they have prioritised taking all necessary measures to be a high reliability organisation. In his intervention, Mr Waddah Shihab Ghanem Al Hashmi, the Chief EHSQ Officer at CGE Risk Management Solutions, defined high reliability organisations as those that exhibit a strong learning orientation; prioritisation of safety over other goals; continual training and development; and an emphasis on checks and maintaining the safety performance. Achieving a change in culture Hill Salomon, a British Consulting firm and one of the most noticeable participants at the conference, highlighted that cultural change must be internalised throughout all levels of the workplace: seniors, managers, and employees alike. More importantly, as a team the company should write down the desired commitment and develop the appropriate tools to achieve it without shying away from getting professional help, because using professionals to improve safety is an investment that will pay back.

Behaviour driven by leadership There’s a Chinese proverb that says “Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow.” Good leadership is key to behavioural change. That is why it is important for companies to focus their efforts on choosing their leaders to drive a change and improve safety at the workplace. It is important to ensure that leadership embraces safety and applies, has the marketing skills necessary to convey the message efficiently to the team it leads. In other words, we want the leaders to be influential and adopt the behaviours sought.

The events were a successful exchange of best practices, best ideas and methods to achieve a cultural change.

Published: 30-10-14