Contemporary safety training is increasing discussing the core values of employees and managers. This focus can be very confronting for many people as core values are rarely discussed or even acknowledged, yet they could be central to the modern approach to safety management and safety compliance.
New safety legislation in Australia applies a common obligation across jurisdictions and industries to consult about health and safety, to communicate, to listen. But personal and corporate OHS obligations are well established so will the reiteration of these obligations in the consultative process have the impact expected? Does this conversation make safety more important, more “front of mind?
A better result may come from discussing core values in the workplace safety and health context. Some may look for these core values to be exposed via expensive training courses and awareness gurus but the first step could be to simply ask one’s self, or discuss with one’s partner, the question “what are my core values?” or “what do I believe?” or “what is most important to me?”
This may seem a little “soft” to many safety professionals and be dismissed as a warm and fuzzy approach but for most safety will be a core value even though it may be described in other terms such as “humanity”, “love”, “family” or “justice”. Safety is chosen by many people as a profession or occupation because it is one of the few “helping” professions or disciplines that everyone can join.
The legal fraternity is rarely described as “warm and fuzzy” but at a presentation by Norton Rose lawyer, Barry Sherriff, on 11 October 2011 and to 100 people, core values featured. Not only that but Sherriff posted a slide that also mentioned “feelings”?!
Sherriff was discussing the “drivers” of OHS performance as they apply to officers of Australian companies. He said that
“values drive attitude to OHS beyond the personal to caring for others” and
“values are more likely to overcome perceptions of impotence, inevitability or cost”
He went on to discuss corporate values and obligations but the personal role of values in improving OHS performance and awareness was in Sherriff’s presentation and great benefit could be gained by spending more time thinking about this issue.
If you were to google “values” and “safety” you are likely to come across training programs by overseas safety gurus that cost the Earth and do not talk the language that your workers or colleagues would accept or understand. If you have the money and the interest, use them, but greater (and cheaper) benefits will come from talking with your colleagues and your family over dinner or lunch.
For many Australians, personalising safety in this manner may be a fresh way of starting the safety discussion. With new laws coming in most States from 1 January 2012, it may be the right time to try a new communication strategy.