Getting Started: What is Safety Culture?
A congregation’s “safety culture” is made up of its shared beliefs, practices, and attitudes regarding safety. The way this safety culture manifests itself is the result of a number of factors, such as:
• Leadership and staff norms, assumptions, attitudes, and beliefs
• Values, myths, and stories
• Policies and procedures
• Staff priorities, responsibilities, and accountability
• Action or lack of action to correct unsafe behaviors
• Staff and volunteer training and motivation
• Congregational involvement or buy-in
In a strong safety culture, everyone feels responsible for safety and pursues it on a daily basis. Congregants routinely look out for one another and point out unsafe actions and conditions to each other. Over time the norms and beliefs of the congregation will shift focus from eliminating hazards to eliminating unsafe actions. The congregation will be building systems that proactively address safety concerns, and safety will be integrated as an intrinsic value (not simply a program) among the staff and leadership of the congregation.
How Do We Change the Safety Culture?
Everyone has a role to play, and we all have a piece in the puzzle. The leadership, our volunteers, staff, parents, even our children and youth. We all will have different responsibilities or will be expected to act according to the policies and practices of the congregation. Congregational safety involves the entire congregation.
“There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy, and civilization through the world - one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love. That one thing is trust.” - Stephen Covey
It all begins with trust. Trust in our leaders, our staff, and the congregation. Trusting that the congregation has done all it can to keep each other safer. Sometimes doing all we can is not enough. But our people should be able to trust that their leadership has paid attention, has done the work, and set up the systems to identify and respond to potential risks for the congregation and the people associated with it.