Keys to Transforming Safety & Organizational Performance

Organizations have a unique opportunity to transform their safety and organizational performance by adopting an alternative, but proven, strategy and approach. This approach requires leaders to think and manage differently and challenges industry paradigms and assumptions.

Leaders should adopt these three principles in their safety and loss prevention systems to transform organizational performance:

  1. Study and learn from success, not just failure
  2. Integrate the safety and loss prevention system into existing organizational systems and processes to achieve business goals and objectives
  3. Implement a leadership development model with a roadmap to improve and sustain performance

Most safety and loss prevention systems/programs focus on the prevention of, and learning from, failures like near-misses, investigations and at-risk items identified during observations. The natural assumption is that reduced failures equate to a better safety and loss prevention culture. A reduction in failures could be indicative of an effective culture but could also be attributed to luck or a climate that hides or overlooks issues. Organizations should identify and learn from failure as it is essential to improving an organization’s safety and business performance. However, herein lies the challenge, as companies reduce failures there naturally becomes less to study to promote a continuous learning environment. To further enhance performance, organizations should also study success – how and why activities are performed flawlessly. Why? Failure occurs infrequently, limiting the learning potential; tasks are performed successfully more often and better represent how work is really performed. If a failure occurs once in 1,000 times, it doesn’t make sense to only study failure. There are many more opportunities to learn from successful performance. These two perspectives should be combined and seen as complementary views, not opposing views to safety and loss prevention. This approach improves human and organizational performance, which positively impacts how ALL work is performed and has implications on reliability, process safety, environmental and regulatory performance, equipment, property damage, etc. – not just personnel safety.

Because these complementary views can positively impact all aspects of business performance, the safety and loss prevention approach should be integrated into an organization’s existing systems and processes to accomplish its goals and business objectives. To demonstrate this connection and achieve their goals, organizations should define specific improvement goals related to areas such as workplace injuries, reliability, environmental and regulatory stewardship. Goals could be to eliminate all recordable workplace injuries, reduce environmental or regulatory issues by 50%, or improve reliability performance by 30%. Then, organizations should define the tasks and activities that will have the greatest impact on those goals. By defining the specific tasks and activities, organizations can focus on those areas that can have the biggest impact on goals and objectives to improve performance.

Integrating safety and loss prevention into the organization does not come naturally. We have been taught to make complexity more manageable by breaking things down into individual parts to try to understand and manage each part individually rather than collectively. This thinking has led leaders to unconsciously design organizations that inadvertently contribute to thinking in silos, not connections and interrelationships. For this reason, organizations created safety programs separate from environmental management programs, which are different from reliability programs. When employees operate in these programs they are singularly focused on reliability, environmental management, or safety, which causes people to think in silos. Organizations should adopt a process that enables employees to manage ALL types of risks holistically within their business – not in a piecemeal or programmatic approach.

In the case of safety and loss prevention, most people in organizations see these activities and tools as individual and unique activities that are not related to, and therefore not integrated into, the business. Organizations may have preshift or morning safety meetings, pre-job assessment, task hazard identification tools, or observation processes. These activities are generally only focused on safety and are not connected to other aspects of business performance. After these activities are performed, people traditionally “go and do the work.” They are physically and mentally engaged during distinct times of the day – normally at the beginning of the day. That level of engagement does not continue throughout the day to integrate safety and loss prevention into how work is truly performed. By default, and likely unknowingly, organizations fragment peoples’ thinking regarding safety and loss prevention as standalone activities. The end result is people become frustrated because they don’t see the value of these systems, and ultimately develop a “compliancebased mentality” – do what needs to be done to satisfy the boss and company requirements.

Integrating safety and loss prevention into the organization also requires a change in leadership approach and behavior. It’s been said, leadership and culture are two sides of the same coin. Organizations need to adopt an effective leadership development process and roadmap that outlines the key activities and skills that all levels of leadership need to embody to successfully lead, integrate, and most importantly, sustain the safety and loss prevention system.

The development process should include visible leadership and workplace engagement principles to enable leaders to interact and learn more about how work is performed, connect with all levels of the organization, and develop and coach others in the line chain. These activities should enable leaders to develop meaningful relationships that facilitate trust and transparency and create an organizational learning environment that encourages collaboration, accountability, and sharing of information. Leaders must also be deliberate and design this change into their own behaviors to demonstrate the change they wish to see, even if it means stepping out of their comfort zones. What leaders pay attention to, control, and measure communicates what they care about. They must engage the organization and be willing to show up in public settings at all levels to: a) gauge openness to change; b) provide compelling reasons for change; c) illustrate limitations of current efforts and how change is an enhancement; d) challenge excuses and push back; e) address organizational anxiety; and f) show visible support and discuss impact of change at all levels.

By addressing these three principles, leaders will establish a true learning environment, improve organizational buy-in and trust, enable people to see the value and connections of their activities that enhance business performance, and facilitate a leadership development process to help guide, coach, mentor, and develop leaders at all levels to systematically sustain performance improvements. Organizations that have adopted this approach have achieved some amazing results:

• $800 million savings in a single year for one company

• Workforce of 25,000+, TRIR: 0.11, DAFW: 0.006

• 54+ Million Hours, no LTIs

• 380+ days, no unplanned stoppage in operations

• $9+ million reduction in workers’ compensation

• 54+ million hours, no LTIs for contractor organizations

• Flawless OE Performance in consecutive years (0 recordable incidents, 0 process safety events, maximum reliability)

• Workforce of 13,000+, TRIR: 0.09, DAFW: 0.02.

TRIR: Total Recordable Incident Rate, DAFW: Days Away From Work, LTI: Lost Time Incidents

Dr. Devin Bennett is a Partner with LPS, Inc. (Loss Prevention Systems, Inc.). Devin and LPS, Inc. help organizations improve safety results, and loss prevention performance through effective risk management practices and a proven leadership development process. Devin can be reached at