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Complacency: “Cultural change takes time”

Many managers assume it takes years for a culture to change. Even those managers committed to change often have low expectations about the pace of improvement, while the uncommitted engage in passive resistance—they wait things out. In either case, the results are the same: a failure to enlist key influencers, generate momentum, and deliver the early […]

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Fatalism: “Injuries are part of the job”

A review of a European basic-materials manufacturer’s safety culture revealed that the company had a high tolerance for risk. Some operators said that 100 percent safety was impossible and that risk was part of the job. A maintenance operator explained that he sustained cuts and bruises on the job regularly but didn’t report them because […]

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Trade-off: “Safe means less productive”

An operator at a steel plant was adding alloys to a molten metal ladle. He was asked, “How do you know you’re doing it right?” The operator replied, “It depends. I have a metallurgic procedure in the blue binder and a safety procedure in the gray binder.” The operator, however, was using neither. This example […]

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Disempowerment: “Safety is someone else’s job”

At an Asian chemicals manufacturer, hand injuries accounted for about 50 percent of all serious injuries. When the management team arranged for operators to wear protective gloves, the number of hand injuries declined only slightly. It turned out that many operators decided not to wear the gloves because they made it difficult to perform some […]

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Fear of blame: “If I report an incident, I’ll be punished”

At a large transportation company, more than 60 percent of surveyed employees expressed concern about the consequences of reporting an injury. Upon joining field teams, new employees learn both from peers and supervisors the difference between a “true injury” and a “bruise”: the former should be reported and the latter should not. The message is […]