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Why Is Safety Culture Built By Increasing Diversity?

by Arttu Vesterinen

VUCA

Diversity is a hot topic today. Just try to google the word and see how many hits you get. We are not however giving opinions here on the gender, race or cultural inequality but instead aim to show you as a reader why a subclass of diversity, namely cognitive diversity is so important from safety management perspective.

Cognitive diversity is defined as “the inclusion of people who have different ways of thinking, different viewpoints and different skill sets in a team or business group”.

We love to talk about VUCA to our customers and stakeholders, and it seems that in the future no organisation can operate in the top-down model of the 1900s. Diversity in opinions, point of views, observations, ideas and suggestions is one of the most important antidotes to uncertainty and volatility.


Why is this necessary for safety programs? Most of the safety management programs include components of incident reporting tools, safety walks, management walkarounds, toolbox talks etc. But the truth is that in most of these cases 80% or more of the reports and actions towards improved occupational safety come from less than 20% of the workforce. We have seen situations where 1% create 99% of the reports but the average is most likely somewhere in Pareto Principle, the famous 80/20 rule.


In the past few years, we have noticed health and safety metrics having moved from accident and injury focused numbers, such as LTIF, towards leading indicators such as number of near misses and safety observations (even positive ones such as ideas or initiatives). However, when looking solely at the number of observations in total or even average per employee, one of the points this metric misses is that if most of the observations come from just 20% of the workforce, the point of view limited. The diversity in viewpoints is low. For those who think they can see what others cannot, just look at the following video to understand how limited your view can be:

 

In today’s turbulent world issues and incidents arise from complex situations and to avoid them to happen, it requires multiple views to see the risks before they realise. This can be visualised in a simple rectangle which represents all possible safety incidents or risks. When only a portion of workforce are reporting issues this is how it shows in the rectangle:

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On the other hand when organisations are able to engage more employees and from more different viewpoints to safety work, this is what the rectangle looks like:

unnamed (1)

In the end safety culture is all about engaging your extended workplace for safety work more frequently (more observations per employee), more widely (engage more employees) and more deeply (encourage employees to report observations with richer information).

If you are interested to see this kind of granular comparisons this in action, our incident reporting module incy.io has a built-in pivot table generator where you can compare the number of reports per employee, per department, per country or per location. 


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Want to learn more about the subject? Download our VUCA white paper to learn more about how the operating environment is changing and why all organisations need to become more agile today rather than tomorrow:

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We're a tech company with a passion for helping our customers adapt to the fast changing VUCA world. We're doing that by developing easy-to-use SaaS products that make gathering, managing and analysing field information as easy as possible for the end users. Remove gatekeepers, go horizontal and learn from your mistakes before they actually happen. More info at planbrothers.io.

VUCA

Arttu Vesterinen

Chief Executive Officer