Development of an effective process safety culture requires employees to look beyond intended performance, to their own nonconscious assumptions about process safety. When firmly in place, effective process safety culture instills an environment where employees differentiate between events which, while detrimental to performance, have low probability of generating an incident, and those with seemingly minimal impact on performance, yet high probability of escalation into full-blown process safety incidents. How does an organization instill personal accountability for process safety in the face of significant change? One major manufacturing firm needed to rapidly improve their competitive position, yet they worried about process safety performance. Shifting their management style to gain personal commitment, they engaged the organization in changing assumptions about how key process decisions were made, both technically and socially. They were surprised by the results: personal commitment led to personal accountability, which in turn, maintained process safety performance in a time of intense change, yet without constant management oversight. To develop effective process safety cultures, underlying assumptions and strategies must be examined, and often recreated. The organization's preferred management style will be a potentially hidden source of strength, or weakness, in its success.
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