How leadership shapes safety culture

“Every company desires safe operations, but the challenge is to translate this desire into action.” This quote from Rex Tillerson, Chairman & CEO at Exxon Mobil Corporation, introduces OGP’s latest publication.

“Written rules, standards and procedures, while important and necessary are not enough. Companies must develop a culture in which the value of safety is embedded in every level of the workforce.”

The objective of OGP’s Shaping safety culture through safety leadership (Report No. 452) is to raise awareness among senior figures in the oil and gas industry of the way their behaviours shape safety culture. It explains the meaning of that concept and specifically describes what leadership characteristics can influence safety culture.

Among the advantages often associated with a strong Safety Culture:

  • Few at-risk behaviours
  • Low incident rates
  • Low personnel turn-over
  • Low absenteeism rates
  • High productivity

As a result, organisations with a strong safety culture usually excel, the report says..


The report goes on to point out that leadership valuing both production and people has been shown to achieve the best results in staff performance. Moreover, certain leadership styles get better results.  These include:

Transactional versus transformational.  Transactional leaders are managers; they set objectives, monitor performance, and make corrections as needed. Transformational leaders have a vision, and inspire people to go above and beyond their mere self-interest to achieve it. While safety leaders need transactional skills, without transformational skills, they tend not to generate employee engagement.

Situational and contextual. Good leaders, including safety leaders, adapt their style to the situation at the time, and to the context the organisation is operating in (branch of industry, country and so on).

The publication can be downloaded here.

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