Actions you can take now that could build a safety culture

 “At Sign up to Safety we seek to help everyone nurture and achieve the ultimate safety culture: a mind-set and a set of behaviours that become the very essence of what we do so that working safely is embedded into out beliefs, customs, social behaviour…’the way we do it round here’

Suzette Woodward, national clinical director, Sign up to Safety Team

Within health and social care there are multiple groups of people, multiple teams, multiple cultures; people who work in organisations with thousands of staff through to isolated individuals working in remote communities.  Professions, teams and departments with formal customs and hierarchies that prevent people from challenging others.  Professions, teams and departments that go out of their way to gather people together to hear from everyone no matter how disparate their views.  Professions, teams and departments that all have their own ideas, beliefs, customs and behaviours.

If culture is a combination of ideas, beliefs, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people, ethnic or age group in society’ and ‘the way we do it round here… when no one is watching’ – what is a safety culture?

If safety is both a state where as few things as possible go wrong and a state where as much as possible goes right (Ref: Eric Hollnagel) then a safety culture is the mixture of the behaviours, decisions, beliefs, the way we do it found here, in order to make this happen.

A safety culture is therefore:

  • one that is mindful for the potential for getting it wrong, for risk and harm, one that takes steps to prevent that and to minimise its effects if it does
  • one that seeks to learn when things do go wrong or nearly go wrong; learn so that things can be changed to the system to the designs of what we do to intuitively help us get it right
  • one that seeks to learn from the day to day and seeks to learn from when we get it right in order to replicate it, and seeks a way of optimising what we know we do well

This beautiful combination will as Eric Hollnagel and others suggest help us move the language from ‘one person’s job’ or a topic of ‘patient safety’ to helping people work safely.  This is the task of policy makers, leaders, managers, clinicians – all of us.

At Sign up to Safety we believe that in order to do this we need a different way of working together.

One where we are kind and respectful of each other.

That we need to help people connect and create the relationships that are vital for safety; where people are able to speak out, and are listened to when they do.  This culture needs to be fair and consistent both when things have gone wrong and when things have gone right; a ‘just culture’.

What actions can we each do now, this moment, that could start to move us in this direction?

Below are some ideas. We’ve heard back from those who have tried them that they work well for their staff, and we’d love to know how they work for you too.

(Download shareable versions of these visuals by clicking here)