Tuesday, 11. November 2014

Safety: A Prerequisite - Not A Priority

Discussing safety on various levels of an organization often indicates differing views on importance of related activities or significance of the subject within the organization or hierarchy. Just to play it safe (pun intended) more or less everybody will sooner or later emphasize “Safety has Priority” during such discussions.

Safety having priority means that it moves ahead of probably equally or even more important other activities. It also indicates special cases, something out of the ordinary, and something to pay specific attention to. The conclusion based on this commonly observed behaviour is a definite lack of safety culture. An organization stressing mantra-like the priority of safety does not, cannot, and will not live safety. It is unsure about its current level of safety or where it wants to be in this respect.

Safety is a prerequisite for a successful and well managed organization. It has to be embedded in the company culture as a not questioned set of behaviours, followed by everyone throughout the hierarchy. Once in place, there is no room or need for ‘safety priorities’ anymore.

A company with the need of many ‘safety priorities’ has a long way to go on the journey to an embedded safety culture. Quality Assurance is an appropriate analogy for such development. When Quality Assurance became a necessity in modern manufacturing and service industries, it took quite some time to overcome the ‘control’ elements, to eliminate the life on its own it had developed into by being organized as a separate entity from the rest of the organization, and the need to eliminate ‘quality priority’ activities amongst many other undesirable developments. Today, Quality Assurance has become an integral part of almost all companies with their quality activities so deeply embedded that they are often not recognised anymore by the ones who practice them. Quality Assurance has become a prerequisite with most of the integrated quality activities not being specifically defined per se anymore.

Safety today seems to be still a long way away from being integrated and lived subconsciously like the state Quality Assurance has achieved. Let’s not fall into the trap of setting more and more priorities but rather use the energy and resources to develop safety into an inherent culture, inseparable from other business activities. Safety is a prerequisite in an organization and should not be limited to a set of priorities!


Global Risk Experts Asia Pacific Sdn Bhd