When Your Response Gets In The Way Of Safety Performance

Health and safety management should embrace the interactions between the working environment, equipment, systems and procedures, and the people in the organization. ​ Since effective risk management depends partly on the behavior of individuals in an organization, many accidents can be traced back to unsafe behaviors. ​Your response should never get in the way of safety performance.

The safety culture of a company is therefore crucial and starts with our attitude towards it.  Only an active approach where we evaluate risks in detail and perform active risk management is the way to go.  ​

A passive approach or the “it will not happen to me attitude” needs to be avoided at all costs.

Unfortunately, these are typical responses to risks that are dangerous for your safety performance


  • Denial……incidents only happen to other people
  • Disavowal…….incidents happen, so what?
  • Idealization……we are too good to be affected
  • Grandiosity……we are too big to be affected
  • Transference…..we wouldn’t make a mistake
  • Victimization…..someone else is responsible
  • Intellectualization…..statistical dismissal of the risks
  • Compartmentalization….only a part will be affected

What are possible reasons for this negative approach?

  • Unclear health and safety objectives.  Under these circumstances, HSEQ employees put forward arguments for their safety case, but business leaders don’t understand nor believe these are compelling factors. That is often the case when these leaders do not know what their business risk profile is. Resources deployed in implementing effective policies are minimal and lack commitment and involvement.
  • Lack of safety commitment. When leaders are not actively engaged in promoting health and safety, they will not commit to its effective implementation.  Often the delegation of the responsibility will be downwards to frontline employees who are most at risk. These companies may use a blame culture and not check for signs of compliance.
  • Safety is seen as a cost. Companies that invest in safety perform well in business.   So, if a company considers safety as an expenditure and nothing more, there is a real problem. 
  • Incidents are ignored. Mistakes happen in any business, so a company that announces they have not had a single incident for the past five years is a reason for concern. That means there is an underlying issue, staff are afraid to report incidents or near-misses, and management fails to see the benefit of reporting everything.  These businesses fail to take on board conclusions of accident reports and fail to implement the recommendations.
  • Lack of safety expertise. Sometimes there is a small expert safety team or no safety team at all. That can be because there is no budget, or safety is not a priority.  Lack of time and continuity will harm the implementation of safety management systems.

An excellent safety performance – conclusion

Having the wrong response to safety is dangerous for people, environment, assets, and reputation. So, don’t let disasters and incidents drive change, but take a proactive approach. Building a safety culture takes time. Also, change programs that succeed at one location can fail at another. It is crucial to drive continuous improvement and achieve excellence in HSEQ.

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I’d love to know what your struggles with HSEQ are and what you’ve tried to overcome them.

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