A few weeks ago I posted a blog about the “normalization of deviance” – referring to violations of good electrical safety practice that have been rationalized as acceptable – as a possible explanation for how some electrical injuries occur. I was trying to point out that implementing detailed electrical safety procedures without fail requires a certain amount of vigilance and commitment in the face of everyday challenges at work that encourage production. In the June issue of Occupational Health and Safety, I have some additional thoughts on the social environment of electrical safety, focusing this time on organizational safety culture. I’ll briefly summarize here why I think this angle is relevant to preventing electrical injuries.
In recent years, there has been growing interest in safety culture as a critical influence on workplace injury experience. Essentially, the notion of safety culture argues that injuries aren’t a function of the relative hazardousness of a particular industry or work process, but also reflect the extent to which safety is an organizational priority. This isn’t exactly rocket science. People do things at work that they think will get rewarded and contribute to tangible organizational success. The most obvious way to do this is to help get product out the door on time and under budget. In this scheme of things, safety can easily get lost unless it’s prioritized as an explicit organizational value.
Following electrical safety protocols in some cases can take time and no small amount of consultation before work can proceed. Workers who feel pressure to speed things up to get the job done may find themselves in a bind if they think doing things the right way is going to draw a supervisor’s ire or earn a poor performance review. It’s important for workers to know that the organization has their back when they need additional time to finish a job safely – and that they’re able to raise safety concerns without feeling their jobs are at risk.
Knowledge of electrical safety is essential for those who are exposed to electrical hazards in the workplace -- but equally important are conditions for ensuring that appropriate procedures are put into practice.