Why should a CEO consider behavioural safety?

I’ve worked with and discussed safety with many leaders. Some from the biggest companies in the world. It always amazes me how senior leaders focus only on hazard management and control and caring leadership as the main basis for their safety programs. A constant drive to removal or minimise all hazards overlaid with personal responsibility to do the right thing and leaders supporting and caring for their workforce. A heathy level of compliance to procedures is always present! Sounds pretty straight forward and again, many of the biggest companies in the world do it.

In these cases, I always ask myself “If this worked so well then why do these companies still have fatalities in their business?” Injury frequency rates that have reduced but still remain too high, especially for those zero harm aspirants. This is when I hear “well improving safety is a journey and we constantly look for improvement year on year” or something along these lines.

In my mind it is clear. If you are only looking at hazards and leadership then you are missing half of the equation. The person. And when we talk about the person, what are we talking about?….behaviours. I will say it again and propose a big claim. Any safety program that isnt looking at human behaviours will never get to zero harm!

The irony though is that many of these same organisations recognise leadership behaviours and have major programs investing significant time and money. I personally have been involved in leadership development programs that ultimately aim to make better leaders through behaviours. Why not safety behaviours? Those behaviours that if were in place, people would not have been injured. Why don’t we look at safety in terms of behaviours?

It is time for CEO’s to reconsider what they are focusing on in the safety space and look at the other half of the equation. The “person” and what they do. If leaders can be made through better behaviours then why not safety? Having been involved in both leadership and safety behavioural programs, I know they work.

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