It's often assumed people automatically will follow any new procedure that reduces risk and improves safety. In reality, implementing any change requires supervision and a consistent and focused effort. This includes coaching and guidance beyond the confines of a classroom. It also demands continuous enforcement through both positive and negative measures to ensure employees really adhere to the change. This is where the role of management and supervision becomes critical in enforcing the expected standards every time to achieve and sustain a high level of operational discipline.
To understand risk potential and the importance of constant vigilance, chemical manufacturers must develop a learning culture. This requires reporting of incidents, investigating their potential consequences, and then sharing the learnings from the investigation with all relevant personnel. At DuPont, this is a well-accepted and ingrained practice. The company works continually to maintain an environment conducive to reporting, one not based on blame; in fact, we treat failure to report incidents as an ethical violation.
To create such an environment, company leaders must clearly encourage reporting of incidents and disseminating learnings to prevent recurrence. Studying incidents that have occurred at other organizations can provide further insights. Line management also must take responsibility through personal involvement in the learning management process.
Another way to build and maintain a culture of reporting and learning is through positive reinforcement of superior safety performance. A recognized process for identifying and rewarding individuals who report incidents and share information can help prevent new incidents. This is more effective than punishing or assigning blame without proper investigation. The message conveyed — that the company holds safety and safe employees in high regard — is more important than the size or type of recognition.
A strong process safety culture helps reduce incidents and keep employees safe, leading to a more sustainable business. Engaged leadership, the ability to demystify PSM, achieving and sustaining operating discipline, and creating a collaborative learning environment will result in organizational and operational effectiveness. Dividends include greater productivity, an improved risk profile, and higher employee morale.
RAMABHADRAN SRINIVASAN is Singapore-based global leader, process safety and risk management offerings, for DuPont Sustainable Solutions. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.