• Peter Bateman
    71
    Safe Work Australia have put up this transcript of a recent address by Prof Andrew Hopkins, one of the world's acknowledged authorities on organisational H&S failures.
    It's a long read but well worth it.
  • Simon Lawrence
    60
    Great speech. I can also commend it, having just read it.

    In his closing comments, Prof Hopkins appears genuinely relieved to have personally abandoned the word culture as it may apply to safety.

    For our long-suffering Forum safety advisors of all types, I think we should also be encouraged by this quote:

    "Now, to which I say, wow, if I were a safety practitioner, I would breathe a sigh of relief. I can ditch this concept of safety culture, and get on with what's important, it's the practices in this organisation. I don't need to worry about whether I call this culture, or safety culture. I don't need any other language to deal with this, I can get straight on to the issue of getting, focusing on the organisational practices and getting them right."

    Leadership and consistency are all we need, although I think he might have been more explicit about the role of open and authentic employee engagement.
  • Tony Walton
    36
    Totally agree Simon - my evidence concurs also.
  • Aaron Marshall
    21
    I'm going to dissent here...
    'Safety Culture' is simply part of the wider company culture. The problem comes when, like other safety aspects, you try to silo it out. Whatever words you use to describe it (or not) doesn't change the fact that all companies have an inherent attitude and approach to safety.
    Attitude is in my opinion one of hte most important aspects to safety - if your staff and management have a poor attitude towards safety, then you'll never achieve a safe workplace.
  • Robert Powell
    5
    I agree with him that Safety cannot be prioritised, however it can be considered a core value. This was the concept we had in the Airforce, with our motto being "mission first, safety always".
  • Andrew
    106
    Presumably not safe for the people who were being bombed or shot.
  • Paul Reyneke
    19
    I can’t say I was very impressed with this speech. I agree 'culture' is a grossly overused and completely undefined concept, but not sure the speech made it any clearer. For example, I am not sure anybody think culture is an individual characteristic; most people use it in the context of an organisation (group).

    Similarly, him using the trains running on time as an example of the "structure of the organisation" is a bit strange, if not nonsensical. What is he saying? Every industry, profession, task will have its imperatives and it will influence their culture, but so what? That trains should not run on time? That midwifes should not drop new-born babies?

    The same about his discussion on a national culture. I have a team in several different countries and the Americans, Chinese, Thais, even the Aussies! do things slightly differently. But it doesn’t mean we cannot have a company culture that transcends these boundaries. Nobody only belongs to one group; my language when I am sitting next to the Prime Minister (not that it happens all that often) will be markedly different to the language I will use when I am watching the game at my local! Especially when the English try is disallowed in the last minutes of the game!

    What did it teach me about culture? Not much, actually

    So, by and large I think Hopkins didn't add much to the discourse on culture. I personally think writers like Erik Hollnagel and Sydney Dekker make far more useful contributions, even though they may not use the word 'culture'. For example, Hillnagel's reference to "habituation" is a case in point.

    But that’s only my bias – never thought Andrew Hopkins made much of a difference. I think he is very much a “Safety 1” thinker and I believe there is another layer to this.
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