Typologies of Safe Behaviors and Safety Programs – Part 6

In these post, I am exploring how an organization would look based on high and low criteria of behaviors and programs. I find the outcomes to be very similar to the parenting typologies of Baumrind, Maccoby, and Martin.

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This time I review the opposite approach of the authoritarian typology, indulgent. This is a safety environment where there are good programs but there is no accountability for overall safe behaviors.

For the parenting typology, “permissive parents try to be “friends” with their child, and do not play a parental role.The expectations of the child are very low, and there is little discipline. Permissive parents also allow children to make their own decisions, giving them advice as a friend would. This type of parenting is very lax, with few punishments or rules. Permissive parents also tend to give their children whatever they want and hope that they are appreciated for their accommodating style.”

This relates well to how the safety environment would function with an indulgent typology. It seems that the organization is attempting to avoid conflict by simply allowing to happen what will happen. There are few expectations set of how the organization should look and perform. It is interesting to see that the goal of indulgent parenting/organizational structure is to hope that by being given everything there will be an sense of appreciation and respect. Usually, the result is entitlement.

This typology is easy to spot during a reviewed. During the records and programs review, everything looks great. Written programs are in place, training well documented, and it is well kept and organized. Once the auditor steps into the work environment, none of those programs appear to exist. In the office a lockout tagout program is well written, complies with regulations, and has training attached. Then there is someone who is waist deep in a piece of equipment with no lock, no tag, and maybe not even turned off (the interlock works, right?). The auditor might ask what is happening and the response would be something like, “we got to this equipment back up and running.” or “we do this repair like this all the time.” or might ignore the auditor all together because no one has time for a safety audit while there is production to run.

This is one of those typologies where I look toward the safety person to see how their interaction with the organization creates this result. It could be that the safety department has no real or political power within the organization. The programs and training are all in place, but when a view of the operational environment there is no evidence that the programs are followed or considered. There are a few reasons that this phenomenon could occur. The first is that the safety department never leaves the office. They write programs. The perform training. They never go see how the programs could or could not be utilized where the work happens. Another consideration is if the safety department has a good relationship with the operational department especially the front line supervisors. The front line supervisors should be a safety professionals best friend. They are able to make sure the programs are actually working. They can provide feedback on what works and what can be improved. They can help with ideas of where improvements can be made. The front line supervisor, when truly carrying a safety banner, can make a significant difference in a safety culture of an organization.

In the case of an indulgent organization, there are reasons why the well written programs are not followed. Some quick check items to review:

1) Is safety a critical ideal of the senior leadership?
2) Do supervisors and employees have all the tools they need to comply with the safety programs?
3) Is the training relevant and adequate?
4) What types of audits are being conducted to report deficiencies to the organization?
5) Are the expectations clear enough?
6) Is there an understanding of the programs and how to use them?
7) Are there work rules that require the following of safety procedures?
8) Are those work rules enforced? How?
9) Are safety performance items part of everyone’s annual performance review? (Not safety metrics but deliverables such as audits, improvements, and observations).
10) Are safety committees functional?

These examples are some quick start ways to engage the team in creating those safety behaviors based on the programs.

During job interviews that I have been part of over the years, one of the common questions I receive is, “How much time do you like to spend on the shop floor?” Why is this questions asked? It is because those who are asking it have met safety people that simply want to write programs and never leave the office. As a safety person, I do rely heavily on the front line supervision to really make safety work. But I also have to be present to see how I can help make the programs better, easier to use, and to coach others on assuring the programs are working as intended. There is a level of support that has to be given to front line supervisors to assure they are successful in making safety a functional part of the organization.

An indulgent organization can be transformed relatively quickly compared to neglectful and authoritarian. The goal is to create purpose and accountability in the workplace through the programs and by the whole team.

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