Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Safety as a Culture

I spent almost thirty years running the School Sailing Base at Farmoor, Oxford. We were regularly inspected by AALA and I never really understood what the inspector meant when he said "I'm not really worried because you have a culture of safety here"

I am now retired and have moved to South Wales. I now understand what he meant. The organisations I am now involved with do not have The Culture. What has really surprised me, and prompted this article is the way in which I now find that I don't care as much about safety. I find myself in a situation where I can cut a corner and it is only a little less safe. In the past I would have waited and done it safely. Now, I can't be bothered it's not unsafe - no one else cares, so I get on with it.

So where does it start - with the paperwork. These organisations have the paperwork - but the operators aren't aware of the requirements. No one actually speaks to anyone about the things the paperwork requires - and if they do the attitude is either don't worry about it or it doesn't matter. And there are reams of paperwork and requirements all very properly in place but meaningless.

Then there is the willingness to act. No one is prepared to actually make an unpopular decision. Someone gets it wrong and it is just "one of those things" No one confronts the person and suggests further training or perhaps not taking on at particular role in future. Similarly, noticing a problem are they prepared to do the work to correct the situation or do they just report it and do nothing, including not worrying when nothing is done despite the report.

Then there are the little things that must be done the way they say - even when it is impractical. eg Petrol must not be stored on site. The gates must be kept locked - that the emergency services would not find it easy to attend doesn't matter. No listening, no flexibility - just this regulation must be complied with, just a few random regulations.
So now I understand what he meant by culture. What I don't understand is how you change a culture - but then does the culture encourage me to even try?

Originally published on the NSSA Website but I don't think it was sufficiently "Child Friendly"


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