Safety Snippets Articles

Safety Leadership Differently: Dr Who are you?

Naomi Kemp 2017

Universities are a diverse workplace that host large numbers of students, staff and visitors on campuses every day, and their safety and wellbeing is of paramount importance to institutions. Yet in recent years, we have seen serious injuries occur in Australian academic institutions and tragedies abroad, which have serious implications for the tertiary sector [1]. Globally, universities have responded by dramatically enhancing safety efforts in identifying hazards, reducing risks in the workplace and pursuing a more proactive safety culture [2].

Research tells us that in the pursuit of a proactive safety culture, a focus should be placed on the safety climate [3]. Climate reflects the perceptions generated by the actions we see and do [4]. In particular, the actions of leaders shape perceptions and indirectly influence culture by what they systematically pay attention to, control, measure, and reward [5]. As such, leaders who demonstrate their commitment to health and safety can enhance the safety culture through their influence on the organisational safety climate [3].

According to Hudson [6], many organisations have a calculative safety culture, rather than a proactive culture. Placing them in the centre of the Safety Culture Ladder, Hudson states that in calculative organisations, safety is well accepted and positive safety performance is regarded. The information flow is top-down and there are a large number of procedures in place. However, management cares about safety, the workforce is involved and all agree ‘safety is their system’.