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Creating safety citizens at work

Safety citizen
Dom O’Brien
Organisations today are facing serious challenges on two fronts: the unrelenting march of constant change and uncertainty, and the need to leverage human resources effectively in a highly competitive business climate. The result is a breakdown in organisational culture, where the reciprocal sense of loyalty and recognition is degraded to the point that employees and leaders alike become disengaged. When it comes to safety, this may have catastrophic consequences. While organisations have effectively followed the lead of high-reliability industries and heavy industry in establishing controls to eliminate injuries, the fact remains that a disengaged workforce will be significantly less likely to engage with these controls. Despite all the best engineering controls and safe operating practices in place, safety success is still predicated on an engaged workforce. How can organisations rise to meet these realities and inspire their people to involve themselves beyond mere compliance? This exemplary safety performance can only be achieved through a motivated, empowered, and cohesive workforce that genuinely values safety – in essence, an organisation of safety ‘citizens’.
Where traditional approaches target compliance or ‘behaviour-based’ safety, which over time tend toward a ‘plateau’ effect in safety performance, Citizenship represents the next stage of safety culture development. Based on the concept of ‘organisational citizenship’ (the idea that when employees are engaged they become active members of an organisation’s culture, driving positive discretionary behaviours) as ‘safety citizens’, employees are deeply committed to the organisation’s safety values and go out of their way to go above the minimum standard.
Graph Creating safety citizens at work copyright Sentis
Safety citizenship is typically absent from job descriptions and rarely made a part of formal key performance indicators (KPIs). Yet, in organisations where safety is genuinely embraced and supported, these behaviours are frequent and clearly visible across all teams, departments, and work areas.
Safety Citizenship is important because it:
• Reduces injuries and near-misses
• Enhances safety performance in ambiguous situations not covered by safety procedures
• Maintains workforce vigilance and alertness to safety issues
• Builds safety knowledge and skills outside formal training events
By creating a Safety Citizenship culture through high quality social relationships, a consistent and strong message about safety, and the enabling conditions (support, control, and opportunities), organisations may bust through the safety performance plateau, eliminate complacency, and reignite vigour toward safety.
Sentis has designed their Safety Citizens program to assist organisations develop and sustain a culture of safety citizenship. Under-pinned by a model of individual behaviour change and an evidence-based framework, Safety Citizens increases employees’ safety motivation and helps organisations build a positive and strong safety culture.
For more information contact:
Murray Guest - Sentis Regional Manager NSW & Victoria
on (07) 3363 5900 or email
DomObrien Sentis Dom O'Brien

Dom O'Brien is an Innovation Specialist at Sentis, part of their award-winning Innovation Team. Splitting his time between an on-site consultant role and the design, development, and marketing of Sentis programs, he is passionate about their mission of realising safety, wellbeing, and operational excellence solutions to meet client challenges.