QHSE Culture: The Importance of a Safety and Quality Culture
Everybody talks about culture and how to embed the company values within this culture. Almost everyone comes up with values such as openness, inclusiveness, and transparency—which are all important and are certainly a critical part of the culture. However, when it comes to quality and safety, these high-level phrases feel vague, and we need to think about them in practical terms. In this post, we make the QHSE culture more concrete. We break it down by discipline, but the values should obviously be part of the company-wide culture.
When looking at the Quality Culture in an organization, it mainly comes down to the eye for quality and detail. There is always a balance between trusting skillful employees and checking output with all kinds of inspections and balances. If top management doesn’t care, the rest of the organization won’t either.
Awareness of Quality
Regardless of the way the quality is managed, everybody should be very well aware that they have a significant impact on the quality of the product or service. It is this awareness that you should focus on when it comes to building the Quality Culture.
Learn & Get Better together
The awareness mentioned above comes with openness and willingness to learn and get better together. When somebody does something that could harm the quality, it is crucial that his/her colleague feels comfortable to point this out. This openness and willingness to improve is at the root of the Quality Culture. To create this, you have to make sure that nobody is punished for making honest mistakes. This will keep people open to improvements. When this fundamental value isn’t there in an organization, it will be a big issue. We have seen this within the Boeing organization, as clearly shown in the Netflix Documentary.
Health & Safety Culture
In line with the Quality Culture, the Health & Safety Culture has the same important elements such as openness. However, when it comes to Safety, there is also a very important role for Top Management and C-level Executives. From top management, there should be a commitment to safety. They should be clearly communicating that working safely is the absolute bare minimum. The end goal should be to make sure that people go home the same way they arrived. Obviously, everybody is well aware that incidents happen, but the focus should be on safety. This focus can clearly be communicated by Top Management by really confronting Managers that cut corners when it comes to safety. When the bottom line is more important than safety, we are entering a slippery slope. If this happens, Top Management has to identify that and set an example. These examples are what people see and then they understand that their safety is important for Top Management and the whole organization.
Benefits of a Positive Safety Culture
A positive Health & Safety Culture means that everyone knows that accidents happen and that they can help prevent them. It also means that no one gets fired if he or she makes a mistake. That doesn’t mean that every single accident is prevented, but rather that the company takes responsibility for any incident. In addition, all employees know that they have to work safely and that they need to report anything suspicious. Employees feel safe enough to speak up about issues that might otherwise remain hidden.
Environmental Culture is a bit more external than the Safety and Quality Culture. The Environmental Culture has to do with how the organization manages its impact on this world and how important this is. Top Management needs to be aware of this impact and express how they minimize this. It needs to be clear that the unnecessary impact on the environment is unacceptable. This might sound a bit vague, but it is hard to classify because certain types of companies always have a big impact on the environment, that is simply part of the industry they are in, such as mining or other natural resource-oriented companies. Regardless, Top Management should call out to employees that are making mistakes here, for example, when there are spills on plants. It is the way top management responds that sets the tone for the organization.
Tools to Improve QHSE Culture
As mentioned, there must be top management commitment and the employee involvement is necessary to create a QHSE culture. Taking away boundaries is one of the things to increase employee involvement and engagement. Simplifying digital forms, automation, and notifications are some of the examples to take away these boundaries. These kind of examples are common features in a QHSE management platform. With a tool like a QHSE management platform, boundaries are taken away and employees become more engaged, which results in an increase of the QHSE Culture.