Safety culture

For more than 25 years, Stefan Bartel has worked as a coach, a compere and a public speaker, tackling the question: “How can I successfully influence and convince people?” He combines the topics of management and occupational health and safety, thus helping companies to optimise their culture. After all, a safe workplace can only be a good workplace if its managers and employees understand the relationship between the two.
Text: Jule Milbrett Photo: Stefan Bartel

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STEFAN BARTEL, Coach, compere, speaker


Many companies often fail to implement and maintain their occupational health and safety measures. What are the reasons for this?
This happens because many managers and business owners take a very one-dimensional perspective on the issue of occupational health and safety. They often see it as a purely legal issue that concerns only the technical aspects of their business. This perspective is indicative of a lack of understanding as to what is really behind the concept.

Even if you just look at how accidents happen, you will notice straight away that human behaviour is one of the causes of almost any accident that happens at work. So the question we need to ask is, “Why is a member of staff not observing the safety regulations?” Such behaviour is primarily influenced by three factors:
The employee’s internalised attitude, which comes from socialisation
The aspects the management requests, requires, tolerates and acts out as an example to their employees
The corporate culture and the values that shape it
As such, the behaviour of a company’s employees, and thus the current status of its occupational health and safety standards, is a good barometer for the quality of its corporate culture. Looked at from this perspective, occupational health and safety suddenly becomes a key issue in the internal development of a company.

How can a company bring about this type of change in its culture, and why does this method have such a high chance of success?
You need to get the management on board – they have to believe in the issue. At the end of the day, this is how you create the conditions that allow employees to be the best they can be. The motivation of the employees and the way they communicate are particularly important aspects here. If you create a place where people enjoy working, they will work there more safely, more productively and with better quality results. They will also take more care of themselves and others. So the level of motivation among the staff and the degree to which they identify with the company are key. This cultural shift benefits both owners and employees alike. That is why this method has such a high chance of success.

“ONE Safety” is the name of the Groupwide occupational health and safety concept you are helping to implement at Pfleiderer. What progress has the company made already, and what are your overall goals?
Pfleiderer has made an enormous amount of progress over the course of the last year. You can see this in the way the accident rates have developed, and also in the change in attitude among the management staff, who now take a different approach to occupational health and safety and their roles as managers. We have succeeded in making them aware of the opportunities presented by occupational health and safety, and of how both owners and employees can benefit from optimising their approach. Over the next two years, we want to involve all our managers and staff in the development process so that everyone plays an active role in bringing about this cultural shift. There is still a lot of work to do, but Pfleiderer is very much on the right path. In the long term, we hope to bring the accident rate down to zero – and that is absolutely achievable using this method.
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