BP Was Gambling With Safety, Are You?

In a recent NY Times article the chairman of a government panel investigating the gulf rig explosion said that “time after time, BP appeared to have gambled with safety”.  While it is easy to vilify BP, they are not the only ones gambling with safety.  In our experience, many companies gamble with safety, albeit unknowingly. Signs that you might be gambling with safety include:

  • Focusing too heavily on incident rate as a metric of how well you are managing safety
  • Mobilizing safety resources largely in response to incidents rather than for planned, measured preventative activities
  • Overusing discipline in response to accidents, incidents and near misses
  • Using incentives based on incident rate or lack of accidents
  • Relying on training, policies and procedures to ensure compliance

Strong safety leadership is the foundation for a high-performing safety culture.  We don’t need to look beyond the headlines to see that poor safety leadership is deadly.  The BP explosion is one devastating example of what can happen when leaders knowingly or unknowingly gamble with safety. Read more about building strong safety leadership in our upcoming book, Safe By Accident? Take the Luck out of Safety - Leadership Practices that Build a Sustainable Safety Culture. Aubrey Daniels and I deliver a practical approach to ensuring your organization is safe, not by luck, but by design.

Get your copy of Safe By Accident?

Posted by Judy Agnew, Ph.D.

As senior vice president of safety solutions, Judy spends her time helping clients create sustainable safety cultures. She also helps clients with strategy execution beyond safety, and general management and leadership improvement across cultural and generational differences.