CSA Ocean Sciences Inc. (CSA) has a formal Health, Safety, Security and Environment Management System and numerous safety initiatives and is known for their progressive safety culture that is highly regarded in the marine environmental consulting industry. This proactive approach is woven through every activity and service and it is hard work. Eirik Kydland, the Health, Safety, Security and Environment Director at CSA, discusses the origins of T.A.L.K., CSA’s most recent safety initiative.
Walk into almost any business or step aboard any vessel, and you are likely to see signs and posters reading “Think Safety,” “Safety First,” etc. There are a couple of fundamental flaws with those messages. Over time, they tend to blur into the background as our brains begin to filter out messages that we see on a daily basis, thereby losing their intended purpose. Furthermore, how do you determine if someone is thinking about safety? And finally, while those signs might give the illusion of safety, they don’t tell you how to get there – what you need to do to be safe.
To tackle this dilemma, we explored what behaviors were vital to safety. Through extensive discussions with upper management, we focused on what health and safety message we wanted to convey and what we believed were the key elements of a safety culture. The word that kept coming up was “communication” and the idea that employees should have open and welcomed discussions about health and safety and not feel constrained was compelling to us. Think of it this way: ask a room full of people to think about the color blue. Then look around the room and try to determine if they are actually thinking about the color blue. Next, ask them to talk about the color blue with their neighbor and witness the difference. You will quickly be able to see who is engaged, who is sharing their experiences with the color blue. It might be a blue sky, an ocean, a favorite team color, but it’s measurable, it’s observable. That is what sets T.A.L.K. Safety apart from “think safety” or “safety first.”
Out of those discussions, we identified four elements that we believed to be central to safety – Teamwork, Attitude, Leadership, Knowledge. T.A.L.K. conveyed the very message we wanted to encourage – open communication.
Safety is a team effort – colleagues looking out for each other, not just thinking about their own safety. Attitude – both positive and negative attitudes can have a significant impact on safety. Attitudes influence our behaviors, and how we value the consequences. Leadership – and by leadership, we don’t mean someone with a title, but rather anyone in the organization who demonstrates safety leadership. Finally knowledge – knowledge can come from multiple sources, such as training, from colleagues or mentors, toolbox talks, among others. These elements resulted in T.A.L.K. Safety: Teamwork, Attitude, Leadership, Knowledge.
All of these attributes get you to where you want to be and help you achieve those safety goals and objectives. “We don’t wait for an incident to happen to create a new initiative. We’re constantly looking for new initiatives and ways to improve our approach to safety. Much of this is through discussions. We really wanted to stress that it was okay for everyone to talk about safety, in fact we encourage it,” Eirik said.