Chemical companies can create this type of culture by refocusing leadership, rethinking their approach to safety-related communications and leveraging new digital technologies. And, they must address the challenges inherent in the industry’s changing workforce demographics.
Ultimately, by building an effective safety culture, companies can not only reduce injuries, they can also strengthen production, increase operational agility and move ahead on their journey to high performance.
Ineffective safety culture that relies heavily on the collective behavior and norms of employees who must follow correct procedures
Conflicting overall business culture in which meeting production targets takes precedence over completing work safely
Inconsistent messages from leadership, whereby their words promote safety as a core value but their actions emphasize and reward production performance
Impending retirement of baby boomers who will take their experience-based knowledge of operations and safety processes with them
Hiring of newcomers, particularly millennials, who have a different mindset about work than older workers and who need to quickly be brought up to speed on safety and operations
In chemical plants, automation and the growing use of sensors and the Internet of Things are creating a vast amount of operational data. This data allows companies to implement mobile dashboards that show key safety and operational metrics.
Digital technology can enhance safety communications, particularly by engaging and motivating younger workers via text messaging, social media, gamification and other online/mobile applications.
With the generational shift taking place in the chemical industry workforce, the transfer of operational knowledge is critical to safety. Technology can help in several ways from knowledge bases to inexpensive virtual- and augmented-reality systems.
While increased safety is an important end goal, instilling a sound safety culture is even more vital as it can have a positive and powerful ripple effect throughout the organization. Bringing leadership, communications and technology together can help chemical companies establish and sustain a “production and safety” mindset as their workforce evolves.