History has shown that Alcoa, as a company, has had a strong commitment to safety. In fact, when Paul O’Neil became the CEO of Alcoa in 1987, Alcoa had the best safety record in the aluminum industry. However, O’Neill believed that the company could do more. He announced that safety was his top priority, and his goal was to strive toward “0” injuries, fatalities, and illnesses within the work place. He believed that safety required comprehensive understanding of manufacturing processes and that understanding would lead to better, more productive plants. By putting safety above profits and production, he began to successfully demonstrate the critical role of leadership in building a strong foundation for the continual growth of safety culture throughout the organization.
For Alcoa, the key challenges in improving their safety performances over the years have been the establishment of behavioral mindsets that would embrace safety throughout their organizational layers. Overcoming decades of legacy behavior around the lack of emphasis and ownership to safety throughout the organization created continuous needs for new Health and Safety standards and procedures in order to address accountability. Many successful approaches to safety have evolved over the years at Alocoa; however, many of those resulted due to reactionary responses. Therefore, more proactive approaches would lessen the likelihood of incidents and further enhance the safety culture.
While setting health and safety standards and procedures are fundamental, learning ways to actively engage an entire organization to intrinsically put those standards to practice by pro-actively contributing to evolving these standards can be challenging. In order to do this, health and safety must be a shared value. If this value is not shared by the business and all employees, any improvements in safety will very likely not be long-lived even if achieved for a brief period of time as the result of becoming a priority.
How does a company develop a safety culture in the workplace? First, one must look at the factors in the workplace that contribute towards establishing a good safety culture; the environment, the people, and their behaviors. Every working environment, person, and behavior is different, and understanding the interrelationship of this safety triad aids in developing and nurturing a safety culture that suits the organization and the individuals within it.
As seen in the Alcoa case, enhancing safety culture throughout an organization is not an easy task. The creation or enhancement of safety culture is dependent upon manipulating certain organizational characteristics that have an effect on safety practices. This means that manipulations must be goal-orientated. According to the Goal-setting theory, goals play a strong causal role in action.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, Locke and Latham put forward the Goal-setting theory of motivation and developed a goal-setting model. This theory states...