Hands up if you’ve heard the phrase Safety is Everyone’s Responsibility. This phrase really rubs me up the wrong way! I feel it is a term that is used way too often, in a flippant style and I believe we need to stop saying it.
The phrase does hold true to some extent – each person in the workplace has some level of responsibility when it comes to work health and safety and everyone has a role to play.
Safety is Everyone’s Responsibility diffuses responsibility, it suggests that everyone in the workplace holds the same level of accountability, that safety is a communal approach rather than a chain of responsibility where there is hierarchy and the higher up the chain a person is, the more influence and responsibility they have for health and safety.
So, what are we trying to achieve by saying Safety is Everyone’s Responsibility?
- Are we trying to convince workers that they must take care for their own health and safety?
- Are we attempting to portray to those within and outside the business that health and safety is a priority?
When everyone is responsible, no one is responsible!
James E. Roughton and James J. Mercurio, authors of Developing an Effective Safety Culture, A Leadership Approach identifies three styles of different companies and how they feel about safety.
The aim is obviously to be progressive and have a World Class approach. You see, World Class safety is:
Roughton and Mercurio explain that businesses’ in this category do not have campaigns, flashing lights, or bells and whistles; there are simply results superior to all.
“Safety is not just safety; it is organisational effectiveness. The decisions management makes are time consuming and the planning is long term (three to five years.) Roles and responsibilities of line and staff are clear and communicated.” (Roughton and Mercurio)
Sprouting the phrase Safety is Everyone’s Responsibility does not mean that you have a workplace that is safe and free from risk. If this is what the use of the phrase is trying to achieve, then don’t focus on the phrase, focus on the action. What actions are you taking in your workplace to cultivate a healthy and safe working environment?
Demonstrate your commitment to health and safety through a proactive and consultative approach. If you have committed leadership and effective health and safety systems built into your everyday business, you won’t feel the need to continue using the phrase.
— Amy Towers, Principal Consultant, Risk Collective