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Safety Architecture: Building a Holistic Organizational Framework

Safety Architecture: Building a Holistic Organizational Framework

Modern architectural design is experiencing a renaissance—a period of profuse vision that has adopted an all-inclusive plan perspective. Central to this emerging view is a holistic approach that integrates building design with social and physical environments to ensure form and function make effective and efficient use of resources.

Similarly many organizations are taking an all-inclusive approach to business design, creating a company in which all the moving parts—finance, sustainability, production, and research and development—are working together with clockwork precision. Central to this trailblazing movement is a new approach toward the role safety plays in the enterprise.

Safety in a comprehensive design

Conventional safety thinking has focused largely on safety management systems—mechanisms that directly seek to reduce or remove exposure to hazards and improve workplace injury prevention. This thinking is rooted in the assumption that better safety management systems will create better results. Well intended to be sure, this view has unfortunately led to repeated failures where systems are layered atop one another in a hodgepodge of initiatives and industrial safety programs that are often disconnected from the larger business.

Organizations with a comprehensive architecture are distinguished by their ability to take a big picture view of how safety performance occurs. Safety is not a program, but an integral business function that is influenced by, and in turn influences, operational execution. In the interconnected enterprise, performance is:

  • Comprehensive: Safety activities are guided by a detailed, granular strategy developed from a comprehensive understanding of the gap between where the organization is and where it desires to be.
  • Anticipatory: Safety performance is driven by a sophisticated set of safety metrics that detect changes in exposure before they create events.
  • Externally and internally focused: The company adapts to changes that influence exposure within and outside the organization (leveraging such things as safety audit documentation, process safety technology, and incident investigations).
  • Integrated: Safety activities are coordinated across functions; they complement other business systems and processes and show a high degree of skill and sophistication.
  • Risk based vs. outcome based: The measure for success (and the trigger for action) is exposure to injuries, not the occurrence of injuries themselves. Behavior based safety programs, hazard assessments, and workplace safety data need to target these upstream indicators of risk.

From blueprint to reality

Building a company that draws all elements of the business together takes a grand vision and leadership marked by patience and poise. It can’t happen overnight. In order to unify the disparate parts of the organization, leaders must carefully guide their company through discernible stages of maturity across key business disciplines. Ultimately these disciplines work together to drive safety functioning and determine the organization’s level of performance.

The blueprint for a comprehensive organization is fully articulated in the book The Zero Index: A Path to Sustainable Safety Excellence. We recently made available a book chapter highlighting the Safety disciplines—four business concepts or constructs that support the health and safety of employees. Optimizing each of the Safety disciplines individually is essential to achieving our highest goals. In addition, organizations must ensure that the disciplines are configured to inform, support, and enable high functioning in all the others.

The four Safety disciplines are:

  • Structure—the formal framework that supports safety decision-making, accountability, and action.
  • Expertise—the position, function, and contribution of the safety professional.
  • Scorecard—the way in which the organization seeks and processes information about safety
  • Safety-enabling systems—the specific mechanisms used to manage and improve safety.

Together these four disciplines drive safety functioning. Organizations that operate with a holistic framework develop a farseeing plan of action—a workplace safety strategy that infuses all aspects of the operation. They understand that the stability and lasting power of the company depend on strengthening the connections between industrial safety management and the rest of the business. To learn more about how you can build a unified business architecture through safety, download the Zero Index chapter The Safety Disciplines.

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Sunday, 17 February 2019