Individual consequences

“We understand and accept that there is a fair system of reward and consequences”

One of the signs of a low level of safety culture is workers are reluctant to report incidents – and management are quick to blame.  A ‘blame culture’ will stifle change, result in lower incident reporting, and may generally distort people’s perceptions of the consequences of incidents.

The journey to bring HSE management systems to life is about changing habits, adopting new pro-active behaviours and instilling a new level of compliance.  To do this there should be clear and consistent downwards messages of what is and isn’t acceptable, as well as consistent downwards pressure for behaviour.

Showing appreciation and providing encouragement is an important part of this, but there should also be a clear formal link between actions and consequences to reinforce and reward the required behaviours and actions, and to discourage incorrect ones.

Appraisal systems should reflect aspired goals, rewarding those who deliver but with the appropriate mechanisms in place when coaching is needed.  Unsafe acts at all levels should be dealt with immediately in a just, fair and transparent way - blame and punishment should be the last resort.  

At the lower levels of culture (pathological and reactive) it may be necessary to adopt a policy of no-blame (within reason) because, at these levels, accidents are most likely to be caused by deficiencies in the organisation.  Blaming and punishing workers will therefore not solve the underlying issues, but will only encourage people not to report problems.

You may already have tools to make individuals clear what the personal consequences will be for their HSE behaviours, and actions should be applied uniformly - they provide a framework for holding all people accountable for their actions.

In most cases, learning from incidents and making the necessary changes within the organisation is more valuable than punishing workers.  

Further information

The Hearts and Minds Managing rule breaking tool can be used to put in place a clear system of reward and consequences for unsafe behaviour.

Achieving situation awareness can support this, aiding the workforce in determining when work is and isn't safe to carry out.