An employee‐management consensus approach to continuous improvement in safety management

Publication Date01 Aug 1999
AuthorColin W. Fuller
SubjectHR & organizational behaviour
approach to
Employee Relations,
Vol. 21 No. 4, 1999, pp. 405-417.
#MCB University Press, 0142-5455
Received: January 1999
Accepted: May 1999
An employee-management
consensus approach to
continuous improvement in
safety management
Colin W. Fuller
Loughborough University, UK
Keywords Employee involvement, Safety, United Kingdom, Oil industry,
Distribution operations
Abstract This paper reports an employee-management consensus approach for identifying
safety initiatives that are both appropriate to the working environment and also perceived to be
appropriate by the workforce. Issues affecting the success of employee involvement schemes are
discussed and the methods used during the implementation stages of the programme to address
them are described. The case study was set in the UK distribution division of an international oil
company and was applied to safety issues affecting the division's tanker drivers. The study used
an employee questionnaire to assess drivers' perceptions of safety management, workplace
conditions and safety concerns. Factor analysis and structural equation modelling were used to
develop a management/workplace/workforce model to describe the drivers' working environment.
The model was then used to discuss and explain the drivers' choices of safety initiatives.
The case for an improvement in safety performance can, for most
organisations, be argued on financial, legal and moral grounds. The important
issue, however, is not the argument for the improvement but the process by
which the corporate aims are translated into a programme that will achieve the
desired safety performance. The basis for acceptable safety performance is
generally recognised to be an established and robust safety management
system (Health and Safety Executive, 1997; Smith et al., 1998), which provides
the means for controlling and monitoring performance. In 1997, over 80 per
cent of companies, reporting safety performance through the Chemical
Industries Association's Responsible Care programme, indicated that they had
either a certified or a formal safety management system in place (Chemical
Industries Association, 1998). Therefore, if this were the sole criterion for
achieving acceptable safety performance, these and many other companies
should already have reached their desired performance targets. With any
management function, however, performance depends not just on management
policies and procedures but on the development of effective operational
practices, which are appropriate to the working environment and which are
also perceived to be appropriate by the workforce implementing them.
Continuing high performance requires employers to audit and review their
management systems and operational practices in order to identify current
strengths and weaknesses. Only then can initiatives be developed to address
and remedy sources of significant residual risk within the workplace.
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