Culture is how we do things around here. If your safety culture is strong, any contractor or visitor to your site should be able to see, hear and feel it, while every team member will instinctively be demonstrating the standards, behaviours and expectations of that culture.
One of the biggest interrupters of a safety culture however is contractors or visitors on site. They bring with them their own safety goals and expectations, which may be very different to the sites, or may lie low on the list of priorities if they have their other work goals and expectations to achieve.
As a contractor or visitor, this is an ideal time for you to gain a competitive edge. Even before your arrival on-site, you could be championing the safety culture by being an integral part of the site team.
There are many reasons why we don’t do this – they’re often to do with competing priorities, limited time, being focused on our own role, or you may not feel that you are there enough to be able to have an influence or an opinion.
These reasons are all surmountable however and the benefits of doing things differently will outweigh the obstacles. As with any new behaviour or habit, it just takes a bit of time to craft and plan, and then a bit of practice to make second nature.
Steps to Create Your Competitive Edge
- Start with consciously choosing a proactive and collaborative mindset.
- Get involved before you even arrive. Contact the site supervisor and ask them what are their current safety culture practices and goals and how you can help champion them.
- Prepare yourself – choose the most productive state you want to be in. Be present, bring the ‘human’ element with you, choose your beliefs and projections about the site and clear the slate of any preconceptions or judgements you may have about someone (which could be based on previous history or hearsay.)
- When you’re there on-site, be visible – make contact with team members, explaining your role and how you will be working together. Join them for their morning tea or smoko, and why not create a ritual where you bring some biccies or snacks for the team, and always participate in the team’s toolbox talks.
- Keep asking questions. The benefits of questions are countless – they help you break autopilot, help you be present, help slow your thinking, help check in on your bias’ and help others have a voice and share their expertise. They also help you steer the conversation around to the collective purpose of your work there – if everyone is aware of the highest intention of everyone’s roles, it will bring unity to the whole group on site.
Do An ‘Ash Barty’
Finally, what both contractors and the site can do is what I call an ‘Ash Barty.’
When Ash Barty is interviewed after her games, she will never refer to ‘I’ but always ‘we.’ Through her self talk and her actions, she drives home the concept of team at an unconscious level, thus telling her brain that she works within a team, and not in isolation. She always credits her team as one of the aspects to help her with her recent World No.1 success.
Replace the words ’they’ with ‘us’ when you talk about contractors and visitors, and you’ll subliminally change the internal representations in your team’s mind. They will start seeing a team, and not an outsider.
A site’s culture can be hard to define – it’s often something that needs to be experienced, and a great one is often talked about as ‘there’s something special going on here.’ It’s intangible but it’s trust, family, care and connection personified. Little is gained by being a bystander, but so much is gained when everyone feels part of a bigger whole and a bigger purpose.