If I had a $1 for every time I’ve been asked the question “How to Improve Safety Culture Within An Organisation“….wowzer…I would have well over a $500 now!!!

How to improve safety culture within an organisation should really take into account the several accidents and loss of life that we have suffered and the lessons learnt.  I have “less doubt” now that there is a much greater focus on “Culture” when it comes to Safety Management. It’s not just a case of meeting regulations, but also “good business sense”. Safety Culture improvement requires, to a very large extent, integrating safety leadership into existing programs. Generally, three steps that organisations can follow to progress this effort includes:

  1. Develop metrics to include more leading indicators that are designed to address and increase awareness of safety incidents.
  2. Nurture and encourage communications regarding safety.
  3. Establish and implement “incentive” schemes, however, not necessarily monetary based (recognition and reward schemes).

I am sure we all know that “management systems” include personal safety, environmental management, and industrial hygiene as the core elements. When considering Process Safety, the majority of the elements within a Process Safety Management (PSM) framework are already part of a typical management system (EMS, HSMS etc). However, metrics associated with “Safety” can be difficult to identify, extract and articulate to leadership for greater engagement and support.


The development and measurement of safety indicators is often not a priority for organisations.  The tendency has been to focus on “lagging indicators” (i.e., Days Away from Work Rate, Total Recordable Incident Rate, Spill Rate etc). Injuries and spills are relatively easy to explain and for leaders to understand.

Of course, lagging indicators are an important “sense check” in any organisation, but there is a very strong need to include metrics that bring more focus on leading indicators that are designed to reduce/prevent process safety incidents.

Some examples of leading metrics that can be developed, implemented, and tracked include the following:

  • Safety Critical Equipment (SCE).
  • Tracking Management of Change (MOC).
  • Tracking effective closeout of Process Hazard Analysis (PHA) and Process Safety Management (PSM) audit actions.
  • Assessing organisational capability around process safety and tracking identified gap closure plans.
  • Tracking the number of Pressure Relief Valve (PRV) activations.
  • Tracking anomalies from complete permit-to-work reviews.


Once an organisation has developed a set of leading metrics, these metrics should be made visible to all staff and included in communications on business performance. This is a positive message sent to the workforce.

Leadership must also actively demonstrate their commitment via regular site safety visits (walk the talk). This can include talking about leading process safety metrics and undertaking the following activities when doing the site walkabout:

  • Ask members of staff if they know about the facility’s major accident scenarios or any concerns they may have.
  • Determine if staff are involved in reviewing and updating operating procedures, especially with regard to Safe Operating Limits.
  • Probe into and start a discussion about the last emergency drill and actions taken…what were the lessons learnt.
  • Ask the control room staff about the number of alarms they deal with on a typical shift and determine if “potential risk” pose any added burden or demand on staff response time.
  • Most importantly, engage staff with open and sincere discussions on process safety


I suspect we all know the expression “Progress can only be made is progress is measured“…how true.

If we track with metrics, we can convey the appropriate positive messages to our workforce.  No need to dispense with traditional (and existing) lagging metrics, but let us generate a positive working environment with new process safety “leading” metrics. This will give the right message and should be maintained on a regular basis.

It is important that as safety is embedded and becomes part of the organisation’s DNA, recognition and reward is established. It is also important to note that rewards are not necessarily monetary, because they are generally “false” drivers and become an expectation eventually. I have had first-hand experience where monetary rewards were introduced only to be disposed at a later stage.


A twist on an old question now….the question to ask within your organisation is….are we looking at “Culture” with a capital “C” or small “c”.

Listen to the Audio Version

Subscribe to the Safety Matters Podcast” Channel Below

Share this post via: