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The essentials


a vision of the most
significant risks

management and
sharp-end workers

the safety culture
is a long-term project


1986. The space shuttle Challenger concept. It is the fruit of an extensive
exploded just after lift-off and three state-of-the-art review, carried out in
months later the terrible nuclear accident conjunction with FonCSI, of discussion
in Chernobyl occurred. Operator error group deliberations, and of discussions
alone could not explain these two and experience sharing with the institute’s
disasters. They were the result of a members and internal employees.
gradual accumulation of failures within
the organisation. The investigators We hope that these Essentials will provide
revealed that certain ways of doing and
you with elements for understanding
thinking were widely shared within the
safety culture, and convince you that by
organisation and incompatible with safe
improving your safety culture you can
improve your fundamentals and your
The “safety culture” concept emerged organisation’s general performance.
as an important area of focus. The
concept gradually spread, giving rise No single person holds the keys to
to a variety of meanings and actions. safety, so don’t hesitate to share these
Did you know that there are more than Essentials with others around you!
fifty definitions of safety culture?
Ivan Boissières,
Today, ICSI is pleased to share its own General Manager of the Institute
position with regards to the safety culture for an Industrial Safety Culture (ICSI)

04 Understanding what
safety culture is 14 Assessing the safety culture,
analysing the current situation

06 Sharing a vision of the

most significant risks 16 Changing the safety culture
is a long-term project

08 Improving safety performance

thanks to 3 pillars 18 Targeting 7 attributes of an
integrated safety culture

Involving management Improving safety benefits

10 and sharp-end workers 20 the entire organisation

Finding the right balance between

12 rule-based and managed safety

The essentials of safety culture | 3

The importance granted to safety
in decisions and compromises
Several factors influence the long-term viability of a
company: the quality of its products or services, the market
and competition, its finances, regulations, its technical

what safety culture is choices… and of course safety. But safety should not be
placed in a “bubble” separate from the other factors at play:
the safest company would be one at a complete standstill!

Deciding on compromises and trade-offs between cost, lead

times, quality and safety is a core part of the job of not only
managers and executives, but also all other company employees.

What importance does the organisational culture

The safety grant to safety in all these decisions? How can safety
be given more weight in these decisions? These are

the two questions raised by a safety culture approach.
A safety culture cannot
Definition be dictated; it is built and
The safety culture is a set of put to the test each day
ways of doing and thinking
that is widely shared by the through words and actions.
employees of an organisation
when it comes to controlling
the most significant risks
associated with its activities.

Key points
Anthropological detour The safety culture is a set of ways
of doing and thinking that is widely
and organisational culture Each organisation shared by the employees of an
organisation when it comes to
All lasting human groups develop their own culture.
This encompasses the shared experience of ways
has its own risks controlling the most significant risks
associated with its activities:
of doing (common language, ways of greeting
each other or of dressing…) and ways of thinking
and constraints
• long-lasting changes to safety
(philosophical principles, views on what is and isn’t behaviours cannot be made without
Each organisation, each industry, faces
acceptable in terms of behaviour, and so on). shifting employees’ perception
different risks, such as explosion, fire,
Of course, companies are made up of diverse
Shifting or falls from height… And different of safety and its importance,
• the ways of thinking cannot be changed
constraints, such as more or less stringent
groups of individuals. But like all human groups,
organisations – companies, trade unions,
the perspective regulations, pressure from shareholders, unless the concrete signs given by
or whether their market is captive or not. the chain of command evolve.
government bodies, non-governmental The safety culture approach makes it
This raises the question: how does each
organisations… – create their own culture. possible to avoid attributing observed  he influence of organisational
T organisation, subject to its own set of
behaviours to individuals only, as this culture, groups and society
The safety culture is forged by the
on the individual.
constraints, ensure that safety is properly
This is called an organisational culture, and it includes: line of reasoning rapidly reaches its interactions between actors, within an
taken into account when making decisions?
•w  ays of doing that are shared and repeated: limits when it comes to prevention. organisation which must simultaneously
Individual How is the safety element incorporated
organisational structure, rules and procedures, technical It aims to understand which of the adapt to its environment and ensure
into processes and practices?
choices, patterns of behaviour… This is the visible part. organisation’s characteristics have Ways of doing GROUP
the integration of its members.
• c ommon ways of thinking: knowledge, beliefs, a positive or negative influence on Ways of thinking
Ways of doing
what is considered implicitly obvious, attitude the way employees perceive safety. Ways of doing Ways of thinking
towards authority and debates… This is the These characteristics can include, Behaviours
The safety culture reflects the
invisible part; it is more difficult to perceive for example, procedure clarity, importance the organisational culture
and the most complex to change. communication with management, Ways of thinking
grants to safety in all decisions, all
shared vigilance, contractor relations,
Mental models departments, all occupations, and
The safety culture reflects the influence the reporting and handling of Beliefs
Ways of doing
at all levels of management.
that the organisational culture has on incidents, the policy with regards Ways of thinking

matters relating to risk management. to recognition/sanctions…

4 | The essentials of safety culture The essentials of safety culture | 5

a vision of the most significant risks

Should a safety culture attribute the same level of importance Focusing only on reducing
to all risks? In order to know what requires preventive measures the incident rate can lead
and actions, the dangers that most threaten the organisation an organisation to overlook
must be identified and everyone must be aware of them.
its preparation for the most
serious risks.

Key points
rganisations may be So, which risks should be the focus be given the opportunity to
confronted with several types of the organisation’s efforts? share and discuss their vision
of risks: minor accidents, of the most serious risks. This is
serious or fatal occupational The priority of a safety culture what we call shared awareness A safety culture approach must
accidents, or major accidents approach is to control the most of the most significant risks. The prevention of major accident target the most serious risks as a
likely to result in a large number significant risks associated with hazards should therefore never priority, i.e. those that jeopardise
of victims and affect the industrial the organisation’s activities; Yet, in many companies, safety is be based on actions that only The pitfalls of the survival of the organisation.
facilities or even the environment. in other words, the major and
fatal accidents. And since all
managed based on the incident
rate (indicators such as TRIR),
target individual behaviour: it
requires commitment from
the Bird pyramid This approach is more likely to be
consensual, to rally all actors, and it
These different types of risks cultures are built on shared which reflects accidents that the entire organisation. can have an effect on the less serious
have different degrees of references, it is crucial that all have already occurred, and Writings on the topic of safety often refer risks – whereas the reverse is not true.
probability and severity. employees within an organisation hence mainly minor accidents. It The first questions to focus to the Bird pyramid. “What does this pyramid
does not reflect the probability on when considering a tell us? That a proportional relationship exists
of a serious or major accident company’s safety culture are: between events with different degrees Shared awareness of the most
What most jeopardises that has not yet occurred. of severity. Let’s imagine the same type significant risks is the foundation
the organisation
What most jeopardises Many organisations have seen • what are the risks that most of statistic with animals in Denmark; let’s say stone of a company’s safety culture.
a sharp decline in their incident threaten the organisation? there is 1 wolf, 10 bison, many horses and even The most significant risks can vary
the organisation rate with no drop in their These vary depending on the more pigs. We have a ratio between different depending on the activity, the site,
number of fatal accidents. organisation: fall from height, types of animals… but does it mean something? the occupation, but they must be
Severity fire, explosion, electrical risk, No, there is no relation between the categories,” known and shared by all of the actors
All major industrial accidents have risk associated with transport, explains Erik Hollnagel, Professor at the in the organisation. Consideration
What the incident been the result of a combination violence against staff… University of Southern Denmark. In fact, of the most significant risks
Major of highly improbable factors. at the base of the pyramid, only some of the should include those that threaten
accidents Whatrate describes
the incident And yet, the most serious • is this vision of the most serious events (so-called high-potential incidents) internal employees, contractors,
accidents Fatal rate describes and least probable accidents risks and of the way to ensure can possibly lead to a serious event (see customers, local residents, the
occupational are those that pose the most safety widely shared by the the arrow in the illustration). Those are the environment, the facilities, and
accidents threat to organisations. organisation’s employees? Do ones on which focus should be placed. the continuity of operations.
occupational forms of “collective blindness”
accidents SHARING UNDERSTANDING OF exist where certain risk
Relatively minor THE MOST SIGNIFICANT RISKS categories are concerned? 1 Fatality

Relatively minor
accidents A serious accident only occurs • do the organisation’s safety efforts 10 Lost-time incidents

occupational if multiple barriers have failed, target the most serious risks first?
accidents indicating that organisational 30 Incidents without lost time

failures played an important role. • has the organisation given itself

The contribution of individuals the means to assess its level
High 600 Injury-free incidents

Probability is only a useful explanation in of preparedness with regard

Serious accidents and minor accidents certain so-called minor accidents. to the most serious risks? The pitfalls of the Bird pyramid

6 | The essentials of safety culture The essentials of safety culture | 7

Improving safety
performance thanks to

3 pillars
These three “pillars of safety” – • a re the people within the organisation Human error is all
namely the technical aspects, the perceived as the main source of
SMS and HOF – are, of course, risk – because, after all, to err is
too often cited as the
not independent from one human – that must be controlled by reason for accidents;
another: well designed and well frequent sanctions? Or rather as an
maintained facilities, along with individual and collective source of
it is not the ultimate
clear, applicable rules contribute safety whose positive contribution cause, but rather the
to safe human activities. should be encouraged through
training, appropriate work tools and
consequence of other
The organisation’s safety culture suitable forums for discussion? problems within the
has a profound influence on the
decisions taken in the three areas: A CLOSER LOOK AT HUMAN AND
• the share of investment
PERFORMANCE channelled into safety, operator Within human and organisational • the organisation and the
involvement in the design factors, there are four elements management: particularly the role
process, and the resources that contribute to safety: of managers, the involvement
allocated to maintenance of employees in setting the
make up the technical pillar, • individuals: skills, training, rules, a participative approach to
Progress has state of health… handling problematic situations…
been made but the • the SMS may be implemented
primarily to satisfy external • t he working environment: the In many companies, this element
results in terms of requirements, or it can be an extent to which its design takes of human and organisational
safety seem to be Technical
Safety Human and opportunity to get different into account human characteristics factors remains the one with
management organisational actors working together on and the tasks required, the most significant scope for
reaching a plateau? safety system factors
the dangerous situations progress. The aim is to identify
To go further, more that are likely to occur and • work groups: quality of the groups and and implement the conditions
on the most appropriate discussions, sharing of information that encourage safer behaviours
attention needs to measures to prevent them, and knowledge, shared vigilance… at all levels within the company.
be given to HOF.

Human and
organisational Behaviours Effects
What are the levers for action to improve the safety
Key points culture? Although the technical aspects, the rules, and
the skills of the men and women within the organisation
Can behaviours
be changed?
factors (HOF)

are inextricably linked, the greatest scope for progress Organisation

“We often hear that ‘To
Improving the safety culture resides in human and organisational factors. improve safety, behaviours
requires an integrated approach to & quality
safety through coherent actions must be changed’. results
in three areas: technical aspects, Yet behaviour is only
safety management, and human the observable part Work

and organisational factors. afety priorities have • then, the development of of human activity. groups

undergone several safety management systems To understand what Activity Industrial

The “safety culture” approach
cannot make up for insufficient phases of chronological (SMS): formalisation of all influences behaviour, we +- Compliance/rules safety
action in any of these areas. development, with each new processes, procedures and rules must in fact understand results
+- Proactiveness
dimension being added to the implemented to promote safety, the conditions in which the Working
previous in order to improve employees were placed, as environment

Safety approaches must include safety performance: • and finally, more recently, recognition these influence their activity. Imagine a beach strewn
a greater integration of human of the importance of human and with rubbish: the probability that someone will throw Occupational
and organisational factors. • first, actions in the technical organisational factors (HOF), or in a wrapper on it is very high. If the beach is completely results
sphere: facility design, other words the identification and clean, the probability that someone will throw a
equipment quality, redundancy, integration of the factors necessary wrapper on it is a great deal lower. Certain conditions
fault sensors, automated in order for a human activity to be will positively or negatively influence behaviours.” T
 he human and organisational
protection systems… conducted efficiently and safely. François Daniellou, Scientific Director at ICSI-FonCSI. factors of industrial safety

8 | The essentials of safety culture The essentials of safety culture | 9

management and sharp-end workers

How can the safety culture be improved? The challenge

is to evolve towards an integrated safety culture, which
encourages the involvement of both managers and sharp‑end
workers (frontline staff) in matters relating to safety.

A speak-up climate depends

on the trust created by Demonstrating leadership
the organisation and on
Leadership includes three main elements
managerial practices. to encourage employee engagement:

Key points
 hat the manager does on a daily basis (their
vision, their safety behaviour, their decisions…),

our broad safety culture • t he kind of communication they establish
categories can be identified, with their employees (trust, willingness
For most companies that are advanced based on the weight that A shop-floor safety culture experts, technical safety, procedures… the dangerous situations that to listen, presence at the sharp end…),
in the area of safety, the way forward lies management and employees occurs when management does Although this type of culture has remain, and any suggestions for
in shifting from a bureaucratic safety assign to safety in their not place much importance on certain strengths (e.g. formalisation improvement.The first level of • t he technical or organisational resources they are
culture to an integrated safety culture. decision-making process. safety, but operators develop of practices, implementation of management is a strategic level able to allocate to safety (ensuring equipment
This requires both taking into account their own prudent work practices several lines of defence, significant which must be given sufficient is conducive to safety, handling problematic
what experts and management In a fatalistic safety culture, people and these get passed down from investments), it also has weaknesses leeway to find the right balance situations, keeping the teams informed…).
anticipate as risky situations and are convinced that it isn’t possible to one generation to the next. (e.g. rules are established by experts between rule-based safety and
listening to what sharp‑end workers have influence the level of safety; accidents who aren’t working at the sharp end, managed safety, as it is closest Here are 7 ways to develop
to say about the reality of operations. are perceived as “a stroke of bad A bureaucratic safety culture excessive focus on rule-based safety to the sharp end of operations. one’s safety leadership:
luck” or the result of divine will. develops when the company and to the detriment of managed safety).
its managers become responsible • the involvement of employees, Create the safety vision so that
An integrated safety culture implies for the safety level. It introduces a A so-called integrated culture who must demonstrate employees understand the rationale
that both managers and operational formal safety system and relies on encourages all stakeholders to professionalism each day: behind the safety policies,
staff feel responsible for keeping the management to pass down orders, contribute to the establishment adherence to applicable rules Encourage employees to share the vision
system safe through their activities which may conflict with standard work of safety measures, their and reporting of those that are
Type B Type D so they get behind it and get involved,
and, to this end, interact with all other practices within that occupation. implementation, and their not, a questioning attitude and
actors involved. An integrated safety continuous improvement. It requires: shared vigilance, proactiveness by Give safety its rightful place in
culture requires strong leadership from Shop-floor Integrated An integrated safety culture also pointing out dangerous situations, the decision-making process, for
Employee involvement

culture culture
management, increased involvement aims to achieve a high level of • a commitment from the for example, or by suggesting a technical and organisational
on the part of employees and their safety, but results from the shared company’s top management, improvements to management environment that promotes safety,
safety representatives, a redefinition conviction that no single person holds visible through the announcements and the occupational health
Type A Type C Be credible, by aligning words and actions,
of the role of HSE experts, and fluid all of the knowledge necessary for but also the decisions made, the and safety committee.
interfaces between departments ensuring good safety performance. managerial style and the forms Encourage team spirit and cross-
and with external companies. Fatalistic Bureaucratic of presence at the sharp end. An integrated safety culture functional cooperation, to create
culture culture
TOWARDS AN INTEGRATED also requires the organisation to a culture of shared vigilance,
SAFETY CULTURE • a mobilisation of all managers encourage discussions about safety, Be present in the field, to align management
on matters relating to safety, among personnel and between requirements with reality at the sharp end,
Management involvement As a result of regulatory constraints with a two-way contribution: managers and employees, and
and external audits, most high-risk each manager educates their to include support functions, Give recognition for good practices and
companies have developed a safety team on the importance of the employee representative bodies, apply fair sanctions, in order to create
culture that leans strongly towards safety policy and reports back to as well as external companies a just culture and a climate of trust.

 he types of safety culture

the “bureaucratic”, with a heavy their superior(s) any difficulties and external stakeholders in
according to Marcel Simard investment in process and HSE encountered with implementation, discussions on the topic.

10 | The essentials of safety culture The essentials of safety culture | 11

Key points
the right balance between There is no “best” safety culture
per se; rather, there are safety cultures
that are more or less suited to the

rule-based and managed safety environment in which the organisation

is embedded. Rather than importing
models that were developed for
other contexts, each entity must
make strategic choices in order to
strive to be exemplary in managing
their own specific constraints.
Rules and procedures exist to ensure safe production… but
does the reality of operations match what was imagined?
Anticipating as best as possible and dealing with the Increasing managed safety – as a
complement to rule-based safety,
unexpected are the keys to a suitable safety culture.
and the individual and collective NO SINGLE MODEL EXISTS WITH carries serious risks: immobilising which is always necessary – is an
experience-based knowledge of THE RIGHT BALANCE BETWEEN fishing boats at port by imposing often under-exploited avenue for
sharp-end workers and managers. RULE-BASED AND MANAGED on them rules equivalent to progress. While rule-based safety is
those applicable in the nuclear often the result of a centralised and
The organisation must therefore The right balance between industry is no more advisable regulated approach, to consolidate
invest in both aspects: rule-based safety (SR) and than entrusting the control of a managed safety the organisation
• for rule-based safety: identify managed safety (SM) varies reactor to a super-expert who will need to invest in the skills of its

very production operation Its focus is on proactive and critical tasks, implement according to the industry. The would push the reactor to its limits staff – particularly decision-making
undergoes prior assessment by appropriate individual or technical safety (barriers, high level of safety achieved by in order to maximize its power. skills –, give front-line managers
experts (production, HSE…) and collective behaviours when automated procedures), the first model – the ultra safe some free rein, and encourage
operational staff to ensure it is carried faced with a situation. ensure that procedures are (heavily rule-based) model (see The right model is the one which debate between professionals as
out safely. Based on the supposed feasible and reality-based, table below) – might lead some enables the organisation to fulfil its well as group discussions about
context and the result to achieve, the Safety can be threatened on • for managed safety: develop the to think that it is the one to adopt missions to the highest standard of operational experience feedback.
organisation will have established both fronts, by non-compliance skills of the teams and front- in all circumstances. But choosing safety that can be achieved given
rules and procedures to follow and with fundamental rules in line management, improve the the wrong model for an activity its particular set of constraints.
allocated technical resources. But in well-identified situations and way they function as a group.
reality, the context is rarely exactly by an insufficient capacity to
as anticipated… and to achieve the adapt to unexpected situations. It must also encourage coordination
result, the human activity must adapt. Safety performance requires an between the two, through
acknowledgement of the fact that better integration of operational Ultra-ruled Ultra-adaptive
COMPLIANCE AND PROACTIVENESS no single person holds the keys to
safety. It requires putting up for
experience feedback and field
experience in procedures and
Where should Predominance
of rule-based safety
of managed safety

Safety is underpinned by two

complementary elements:
discussion the scientific knowledge
of production and safety experts
rules. This is a crucial part of the
role of front-line management.
the cursor
• the best possible anticipation of be set?

situations that could occur and the SR SM SR SR M SSRSR

implementation of rules and means
to deal with them safely: rule-based “Compliance behaviour is the
safety. Its focus is on compliance one on which safety depends,
with rules and procedures. but it cannot be established at all Nuclear facilities Sea fishing

of sectors
• the skill of the men and women times. It is hoped that safety thus Air navigation Extreme sports Petrochemical industry
who are present in real time, identify Rule-based Managed hinges on a second element:
Blood transfusion Disaster medicine Energy transmission
safety: safety: Industrial
the actual situation and react operator intelligence. But how
anticipate presence safety
appropriately: managed safety. as best to deal with much leeway can people be Accidents are infrequent but High rate of accidents Risk taking is not sought,

as possible the unexpected
given to adapt to situations, not consequences are major but important variations in
Exposure to risk is “part of conditions must be managed
with improvisations, but with Strong regulatory and the job”, within a changing without halting production

knowledge that is no longer international pressure and sometimes very
Expertise Skill
exactly that for which everything unpredictable environment Considerable work goes into
System is stopped if all the anticipation and barrier set-up
Technical barriers Learning ability was designed to begin with?
right conditions are not in place Extreme rule formalism would
This is one of the issues all kill the business. Safety hinges But teams are required to
Increasing managed safety Rules and procedures Adaptation
companies face: what will we Large number of technical on the expertise of leaders take initiatives in terms of
allow? What won’t we allow?” barriers and procedures and their capacity to take detection and correction
means implementing a Compliance Proactive  ule-based safety and
René Amalberti, appropriate initiatives rapidly
managed safety according
learning system. behaviours behaviours
to Amalberti and Morel Director of FonCSI

12 | The essentials of safety culture The essentials of safety culture | 13

the safety culture, analysing
the current situation

Before a safety culture can be changed, a A widely shared

precise assessment of the current situation diagnosis is the
is required. What type of assessment starting point for
is required? Under what conditions? a change process.

Key points
company may find itself in a imagine that a simple and quick sometimes local residents or
situation where it questions evaluation could identify these. regional/local authorities…
its safety culture and wants Evaluating – or describing – a safety • hear, share and discuss news The assessment is a crucial starting
to change it, e.g. following a serious culture means understanding even when it is bad, point for any organisation wishing to
accident, a series of incidents, or how the organisation’s culture • draw from the diagnosis change their safety culture. It looks
after significant demographic, positively or negatively influences the consequences necessary at both the practices of the different
technological or organisational
changes… But before any change
safety-related decisions. in terms of action. Examples of issues raised categories of actors and at their
perceptions of safety management.
can take place, an assessment A diagnosis is a snapshot of how SHARING THE DIAGNOSIS during an assessment The more this diagnosis is
of the existing safety culture is those working at the heart of the AND ITS RESULTS shared by all stakeholders,
necessary in order to determine organisation perceive safety- • To what extent is the prevention of the most serious risks the higher the chances of
their current situation. related matters and how safety is A safety culture assessment is a priority shared by all? mobilising them later on.
experienced and integrated in daily a process involving all actors. It
• What is the perceived level of consistency between words and actions?
QUESTIONING THE WAYS OF practices, from top management draws on several complementary
DOING AND THINKING right down to front-line staff. methods: analysis of internal • What are the variations between the ways in which The assessment is not an objective
documents (procedures, SMS, different actors perceive the current state of safety? in itself. It is best to avoid embarking
The safety culture combines ways The assessment must make it accident rate…), questionnaire surveys, on this type of undertaking if
of doing and ways of thinking possible to: individual and/or group qualitative • Does the technical design and that of the safety
the organisation is not ready to
(mindset), and its least visible layers • make visible what people in the interviews and field immersion management system and procedures take into account
collectively face and deal with the
are those that most influence the organisation are thinking: it looks at to observe work situations and the reality of activities and the constraints faced daily?
(often deep-rooted!) problems
behaviour of actors. It is illusory to beliefs, perceptions, convictions, the decisions and compromises • In what ways do work practices already ensure a good level which the assessment reveals.
• know what they’re doing: by that are made there each day. of safety? What is the human cost of this for workers?
clearly identifying safety practices
and behaviours, the difficulties The result of the assessment is not • How does the organisation strike a balance between
encountered, deviations an objective measurement which rule-based safety and managed safety?
Document from instructions/rules, everyone is expected to accept as • How does management demonstrate leadership where safety
analysis Field
immersion • question the coherence and true. It is an intermediate objective is concerned? To what extent is it present at the “sharp end”?
alignment between what they are that must be communicated to
system Behaviours
Practices thinking and what they are doing. the actors concerned, put up for • What is the quality of the processes for communicating operational
operational staff discussion, fine-tuned and amended. experience feedback to the upper echelons, for dealing with
It is important to note, however, the feedback, and of ensuing measures/actions? Are there
that a company’s top management Too many companies conduct a any signs of “employee silence”, due for example to the ill-
Values Attitudes should only initiate an assessment safety culture assessment and fail considered use of sanctions or the absence of recognition?
of its safety if it is ready to: to follow it up with actions that are
• How flexible is the organisation in adapting to unexpected events?
Risk perception
• involve all other concerned appropriate given the findings. This
parties in the process: all echelons is counter-productive: the employees • To what extent does the industrial policy encourage the
of management, employee will have developed expectations contributions of contractor companies to operational
representatives, front-line as a result of the assessment being experience feedback and, more generally, to prevention?
The different elements
staff, support departments, carried out and may feel cheated
and interviews
of a safety culture
assessment (ICSI) contractor companies, if no follow-up action is taken.

14 | The essentials of safety culture The essentials of safety culture | 15


the safety culture


is a long-term project
 he steps for changing the safety culture
according to ICSI. Inspired by Kotter


Can a safety culture be “bought” by applying an

external frame of reference? It is the mobilisation of all CULTURE PROGRAMME CULTURE
parties based on a shared vision of the strengths and DIAGNOSIS
weaknesses of the current situation that makes it possible Changing the safety
to gradually change an organisation’s safety culture. culture takes time

hanging a safety culture is not with the aim of correcting any One major challenge is to ensure
like changing an organisation problems within the organisation
chart or a manufacturing quickly… but not sustainably. Changing models consistency in the collective approach
process. It is impossible to
change the safety culture of an
organisation without changing
No, a real process of change in
the medium and long term must
be undertaken, leading to change
despite the possible turnover in
individual actors. Key points
the “soil” from which it was born, not only of practices but also
i.e. the organisational culture. of the mindset. This implies:
It is impossible, for example, to • a shared conviction that Where do we want to go organisational factors, that A change in safety culture cannot be
improve the reporting of dangerous change is necessary, and why? Who are the key require different stages and will brought about by an accumulation
situations by sharp‑end workers • the existence of resources, including people to support this change? produce effects gradually. of disparate actions implemented
without changing the sanctions time (it can take several years), What strategies for change in a top-down fashion only. It
policy that hinders reporting • the mobilisation of all actors, and in what time frame? DEPLOYING THE PROGRAMME requires a real plan for change,
or if positive contributions to • a steadfast commitment AND ENSURING THE NEW with a wide consensus on the initial
safety go unrecognised. from top management and To achieve the long-term PRACTICES AND VALUES state of the safety culture and a
a willingness on their part to “The programme needs to objectives set, different actors ARE FIRMLY ANCHORED shared vision of the level of safety
reassess their own practices, be realistic and pertinent, must be mobilised to construct culture sought for the future.
• possibly getting the perspective adapted to the establishment, a programme combining: Action implementation must be
The new practices must be of an external party that can but, at the same time, have • quick wins on points that are planned, detailed at the operational
sustained and a shift must be provide positive criticism the potential to truly change easy to deal with, in order to level, supported and adjusted, The change in culture is not restricted
without being complaisant. the safety culture rather than demonstrate that a process of closely monitored, and evaluated. to safety only: it must be based
made from stated values to simply consolidating the status positive change has begun, on deep transformations of the
values that are anchored in IDENTIFYING THE AMBITION quo. Because it is possible to • symbolic actions, which are Good communication about different aspects of the organisation
AND SETTING THE COURSE make small improvements to more difficult to implement the programme is a must, with and of the management style.
these practices. weak points which do not shift but tackle a significant problem a reminder of objectives, field
The aim must be a more the establishment away from – these are the ones that have testimonials… Difficulties are
integrated safety culture its main model. For example, the greatest impact on staff, disclosed, next steps are outlined. Changing the safety culture takes
AN ACCUMULATION OF combining a high degree it is possible to maintain the • perception correction Victories are celebrated and time. Improving safety performance
DISPARATE ACTIONS of involvement from both bureaucratic culture by improving actions, which aim to the difficulties encountered are is an ongoing process which requires
IS INEFFECTIVE management and employees. it a little, but this does not correct misunderstandings identified, analysed and dealt an iterative approach and unwavering
Based on the shared view of the necessarily constitute a shift to or fight rumours, with. Periodic progress reports commitment from all concerned.
Subsequent to an assessment, current situation, the first step is an integrated safety culture.” • actions to reinforce the are prepared and discussed
the trend sometimes observed to co-construct a vision of the Marcel Simard, Sociologist entity’s strong points, by the executive committee
is to set up a vast plan of level of safety culture wanted and Professor at the University • substantive actions, including and the occupational health
incongruous corrective actions in the future: “the ambition”. of Montreal, Canada. the integration of human and & safety committee.

16 | The essentials of safety culture The essentials of safety culture | 17

single person has all the
knowledge necessary to
Acknowledge that no

Share the conviction that risks

ensure safety
are never fully controlled
7 attributes of an integrated

possible and deal with the

Anticipate as best as
Top management,


safety culture



Search for

causes of
the root



culture, everyone
sensitivity to

Culture of
uch research work has

is mobilised

Certain organisational cultures are more favourable than

highlighted the desirable
others to taking safety into account in the decision- features of an organisational
culture that is favourable to industrial
making process. The good news is that we know their

safety. They can be grouped into


characteristics. This is an excellent starting point for

seven major attributes, which can

Culture of
knowing where to concentrate change efforts! be used as a basis for reflection


rule-based and
Right balance
when setting the ambitions for

the future. Mobilised actors will

Fight against

need to identify a small number


Preparation for

of specific priority objectives:

crises and

Anticipate risks beyond what the
most frequent accidents reveal


Explain content of

significant risks
awareness of

awareness of
the safety case
the most
significant risks

the most
• restore priority to the prevention

Culture of Questioning
transparency attitude

Key points
of the most serious risks,
• define what balance should
eventually be achieved


Management Integrated
leadership and culture, everyone
is mobilised
between rule-based safety

attention to
The organisational culture characteristics and managed safety,

the three
than incident rate
• pay constant attention to the
Right balance

Indicators other


which are favourable to taking into account

attention to rule-based and
the three

3 pillars: technical aspects, rules, and

pillars safety
safety are known and grouped into seven
major attributes. To steer an organisation human and organisational factors.

SMS, rules,
towards an integrated safety culture

the following must be combined: a ACTOR-RELATED

Culture of

strategic approach, a willingness to

awareness of
the most
significant risks

leadership and
mobilise all actors, and a small number


Just culture
Culture of Questioning

• ensure that all other actors such



of key processes on which to work.

HOF, working
as support services and employee
representative bodies are mobilised…
including contractor companies,
Management Integrated
leadership and culture, everyone
employee is mobilised

performance, during design

• improve management’s safety

Pay attention to barrier

leadership and develop all


Right balance

and in operation
Constant between

programmes and measures that

attention to rule-based and

Importance given
the three managed

pillars safety

Truthful external
encourage employee involvement.

between words

to safety in

and actions

Role of




awareness of

© Icsi 2017
the most
significant risks

Culture of Questioning

• instil a questioning culture that

transparency attitude

Build trust and encourage

encourages doubt, reporting,
and the search for root causes,

speaking up
• encourage transparency by
Management Integrated
leadership and culture, everyone
employee is mobilised

developing a just culture that


compliance and
Encourage safe
explicitly admits the right to make

Right balance
Constant between

mistakes, and in which recognition

attention to rule-based and
the three managed
pillars safety T
 he attributes of an
and sanctions are given when due. integrated safety culture

18 | The essentials of safety culture The essentials of safety culture | 19

Improving safety benefits the entire

Because it addresses fundamental aspects of the
organisation, safety culture-related action has positive
effects on the company’s overall performance.

B Key points
ecause, ultimately, A safety culture approach • an improvement in relations
undertaking a process to can encourage: with regulatory authorities,
improve safety culture has local residents and the media,
an effect on the fundamental • greater congruence between the
aspects of the organisation (quality company’s management and • better environmental
of communication, working the realities at the sharp end, results, and improvements The safety culture approach proposes
environment, policy regarding in other areas of corporate to improve safety performance by
recognition/sanctions…), its benefits • a more balanced positioning of social responsibility, working on the underpinnings of
extend beyond improved risk middle management between the way the organisation operates.
management. It forces the discussion what feeds downward from upper • an improvement of other
of phenomena that were kept quiet management and what feeds aspects such as product
or hidden. It is an opportunity to upward from the sharp end, quality, brand image and From this perspective, safety is a
strategically assess the strengths and adherence to lead times, strategic lever for improving the
weaknesses of the organisation. • an improvement in material and company’s overall performance.
psychosocial working conditions, • and much more! Because it can be a consensual subject,
prevention of the most significant risks
• continuous improvement is a good entry point for working on
and innovation, through the organisation. Any progress made
increased participation, will yield results not just in the area of
Good safety is good business safety, but potentially in all other areas.
• improved reflection on
“Working to improve the safety vocational training programmes
culture can result in management and onboarding,
that is more in touch with the Safety is one of the
reality of operations, teams • a breakdown of barriers
that are much more supportive between departments and most consensual issues
of each other, suitable working more fluid interfaces, within the company
environments, motivated
employees… These elements are not specific to safety; they • deeper partnerships with and it is a subject that
are the fundamentals for an organisation to run smoothly. contractor companies, has a great deal of
From this perspective it is easy to understand a catchphrase
that may seem a little like an advertising slogan: good • an improvement in labour influence in improving
safety is good business. Good safety performance is relations and in the way the company’s overall
often an indicator of good performance overall.” employee representative
Ivan Boissières, General Manager of ICSI. bodies function, performance.

20 | The essentials of safety culture The essentials of safety culture | 21

Find out more Reproduction of
this document
On www.icsi-eu.org, discover
our new section devoted
to safety culture!

The Essentials This document and the diagrams included

La culture de sécurité
guide you are within it (excluding the ICSI Logo) are
Comprendre pour agir

currently reading published under a Creative Commons

is a summary of
Groupe de travail « Culture de sécurité »
Edition coordonnée par Denis Besnard, Ivan Boissières,
François Daniellou et Jesús Villena BY-NC-ND licence. You are free to
the Cahier de la n° 2017-01

Culture de sécurité
reproduce, distribute and communicate
Sécurité Industrielle this material to the public as long as
“Culture de you abide by the following conditions:
sécurité :
comprendre • Attribution. You must name the
Polices Couleurs
Frutiger Black et Frutiger Light bleu foncé : C100 M70 J10 N10
bleu clair : C100 M45 J10 N10

pour agir”. original author in the manner indicated

This is a by the author of the material or the
comprehensive copyright holder who grants you this
report based authorisation (but not in a way that
on the work suggests that they support you or
conducted by approve of your use of the material).
the “Culture • No commercial use. You do not
de sécurité” working group and on have the right to use this material
discussions and experience-sharing for commercial purposes.
with ICSI’s members and employees. • No modifications. You are not allowed to
Within it, you will find all of the key modify, transform or adapt this material.
concepts, arguments and scientific
references relating to safety A PDF of this document can be
culture. This publication is only downloaded from ICSI’s website,
available in French at this time. www.icsi-eu.org, in the “Publications” section.

2’46’’ to understand safety culture?

We’ve taken up the challenge! Watch
our animated video on the topic! © ICSI 2017
Based on the original work published
in the Cahier de la Sécurité Industrielle
“Culture de sécurité : comprendre pour
agir”, conducted by the “Culture de
sécurité” working group and coordinated
by Denis Besnard, Ivan Boissières,
François Daniellou and Jesús Villena.
Director of publication: Ivan Boissières.
Editing and coordination: Christèle Cartailler.

Design and execution: Arekusu, Alexandra
Pourcellié. Illustrations on pages 8, 12,
16 and 20: Baptiste Prat. Photos: Fotolia.
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