Navigating the Body of Knowledge
The OHS Body of Knowledge (BoK) is an ongoing work and is being developed for generalist OHS professionals in Australia. It describes key concepts, core theories and related evidence that should be considered by OHS professionals and forms the basis for Australian professional certification and accreditation of education programs. It was initially developed by a technical panel from Victorian universities and the Safety Institute of Australia and was then amended based on industry feedback from tertiary level educators and the wider OHS profession. It’s expected that the knowledge will continue to evolve as more professionals use it and the evidence base expands.
A new chapter has recently been released and is devoted specifically to Organisational Culture. The chapter investigates the concept of ‘safety culture’ and its link with safety performance. It draws some interesting conclusions that we will be unpacking over upcoming articles in Safety Thinking.
The recently released OHS Body of Knowledge on Organisation Culture helpfully unpacks the simple to the complex thinking and discussion about the role and contribution cultural analysis makes in understanding and improving workplace safety.
The BoK sets out to:
1.Explore the different perspectives on safety culture and climate, highlighting along the way some of the unresolved debates and issues.
2. Clarify if there is a substantive difference between culture and climate.
3. Consider what an organisation with a good safety culture might look like.
The review steps through the broad historical context and what various researchers have found landing on the opinion, although not universally ascribed to, that safety culture is a contested, confusing and ambiguous concept having "little evidence to support a direct relationship between it and safety performance". While in saying this the review acknowledges that "safety climate researchers have found evidence of a relationship between safety climate scores and safety performance" while concluding it's not immune from controversy.
The BOK seeks to shift the focus from safety culture to a "culture of safety" where the emphasis is placed on "changing organisational and management practices that have an immediate and direct impact on workplace safety." It argues that the shift does not remove the importance of understanding the role organisational culture plays in this pursuit.
The review concludes, "while they do not inform cultural change, safety climate surveys may be a useful measure of the perceived effectiveness of changes in organisational practices on safety."
In the upcoming Safety Thinking editions we will look in more depth at the four central questions the BoK tackles and see how the answers might relate to everyday good safety practices:
1. Can culture be managed?
2. Can culture be change?
3. Can culture be measured?
4. Does a good culture improve performance?
About Generative HSE
Generative HSE is one of Australia’s leading providers of safety and risk solutions providing a range of innovative, evidence-based WHS consultancy, training and facilitation services. Our work results in visible, sustainable improvements to safety and risk performance, as well as increased productivity, quality and profitability.