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Organisational learning for safety: How to adapt and improve

Posted by Deirdre McConn on Apr 4, 2023 6:30:00 PM

construction employees consulting manager at siteSafety is a top priority for any organisation. One way to ensure a safe work environment is to provide employees with authority to stop work when confronted with an unsafe situation. However, relying on this authority alone can lead to conflicts and not take into account broader organisational considerations.

Organisations must focus on facilitating learning to promote safety in the workplace.
One key aspect of organisational learning for safety is creating change based on current conditions and future scenarios. This means continuously monitoring the organisation's culture, detecting any sources of blame and sanctions concerning safety, and implementing actions to restore trust and openness.

Another essential aspect of organisational learning for safety is developing and conducting training in dealing with anomalies and surprises. This can enhance the organisational capabilities for anticipation, revision, initiative, and reciprocity.

By understanding how to handle unexpected situations, the organisation can keep pace and maintain alignment on a shared model of risk.
When an unexpected event occurs within the organisation, the safety professional should facilitate an open and unstructured inquiry with the people involved. This allows for an exchange of perspectives on the situation and can help evolve towards a shared picture of risk and action. It's important to note that the direction of this learning process should be 'up and out', taking information from the front line and interpreting it in a way that enables the system to learn and adapt. Safety professionals play a vital role in facilitating these organisational learning processes. They have an advanced understanding of many disciplines, including resilience engineering, systems theory, complexity theory, cognitive psychology, and sociology. They use this knowledge to communicate and educate others on safety management and operational performance.

It's important to note that the efficacy of improving safety outcomes through learning from failure is often debated in the safety literature. A safety management mode of guided adaptability instead learns from adaptations that create success. These are the situations where surprises and new information emerge, and the organisation can revise its plans and models and successfully adapt to the problem. The safety professional supports the organisation in understanding how this successful adaptation occurs, what information and resources are drawn on, how it is interpreted and deployed, and what other capacities are critical to these situations.

It's important to note that this approach to organisational learning for safety goes beyond just reacting to incidents and accidents. It involves a proactive approach to identifying potential vulnerabilities and mitigating them before they can cause harm. This could include conducting regular risk assessments, implementing safety protocols and procedures, and providing ongoing training and education to employees.

In addition, organisations can also benefit from involving employees in the safety process. This not only helps to build a safety culture within the organisation but also allows for identifying potential hazards and vulnerabilities that may not be immediately obvious to management. Encouraging employees to speak up about safety concerns and creating a system for reporting incidents and near misses can also help to identify and address issues before they escalate.

Another essential aspect of organisational learning for safety is evaluating and continuously improving existing safety protocols and procedures. This includes conducting regular reviews of incident reports, near misses, and other safety-related data to identify trends and areas for improvement. This data can then be used to adjust safety protocols and procedures and identify areas where additional training and education may be needed.

In summary, promoting a safety culture within an organisation goes beyond simply providing employees with authority to stop work when confronted with an unsafe situation. It involves a proactive approach to identifying potential vulnerabilities, providing ongoing training and education, involving employees in the safety process, and continuously evaluating and improving existing safety protocols and procedures. Safety professionals play a vital role in facilitating these processes and should have an advanced understanding of many disciplines to effectively communicate and educate others on safety management and operational performance.

Are you looking to improve the safety culture within your organisation? At Work Safety Hub, we understand the importance of promoting a safe work environment and are here to help. Our team of experienced safety professionals can assist your organisation in implementing effective organisational learning for safety strategy. We can help you conduct risk assessments, develop and conduct training programs, and facilitate open and unstructured inquiries to help your organisation adapt and improve its safety practices.

Don't let safety concerns hold your organisation back. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and see how our expert consulting services can help you create a safer, more productive workplace. Whether you need a comprehensive safety program or need help with a specific safety strategy, we're here to help.