CHC Safety Summit preview: Steve Simpson on unwritten ground rules

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In advance of this year’s CHC Safety & Quality Summit, Oct. 1-3 in Dallas, Texas, we asked some of the speakers to give us a preview of what they’ll be sharing with summit attendees. Here, Steve Simpson shares his thoughts on how unwritten ground rules form the basis of a company’s culture. Click here to learn more about the summit and here to register.

Vertical: How did you get involved with safety?

Steve Simpson: I came to safety via what I think is a very different route! I’d focused on workplace cultures for quite some time, and a number of years ago began working with a large mining company in South Africa with Stef du Plessis, my South African business partner. Given that safety is such a big issue in mining companies, we began to understand that safety is inextricably linked to workplace cultures — indeed, we can have the best safety systems and procedures in place, but these will count for nothing if the culture isn’t right. That’s when we turned our attention to the relationship between culture and safety, and it’s revealed some startling insights.

Vertical: Tell us about your presentation at the CHC Safety & Quality Summit. What will you be focusing on?

SS: My session will introduce my concept of UGRs — unwritten ground rules — which I define as people’s perceptions of “this is the way we do things around here.” I’ll show how UGRs drive people’s behaviors and how they constitute a company’s culture. I’ll then show how UGRs are related to safety. Most importantly, I’ll show how the UGRs concept can be used to both understand and strategically improve the culture to be more safety-centered.

This will be completely new and different from anything you have seen before as I came first from a culture perspective and have re-engineered back into safety.

Steve Simpson is an international speaker and author based in Melbourne, Australia. CHC Photo

Vertical: What is one surprising thing you’ll be sharing with attendees?

SS: I’ll be sharing a remarkable insight from a conference presentation I did with a large number of safety professionals at a conference in Perth, Western Australia. Because this was a safety conference, the audience comprised safety professionals who, by definition, were committed to safety — they attended the conference, and for the vast majority, their company had paid for them to attend. Yet, I unearthed a remarkable UGR that was working directly against all their safety initiatives, and which for the majority of them, has not been attended to at their workplace.

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Vertical: Who do you think should attend your presentation, and why?

SS: Anyone who is interested in gaining a unique perspective on how culture impacts safety in significant ways ought to come along to my session. The interactive presentation (and it will be interactive!) will provide practical, pragmatic insights into how to understand your culture and how to re-orient your safety focus to gain shared ownership of safety. So if you’re in a position to influence the culture AND you want completely new insights into culture, then you ought to be there.

Vertical: What is one change you would make to improve safety in the helicopter industry?

SS: I’ve got to be honest by saying I am no expert in the helicopter industry. I’ve devoted more than 30 years into gaining an understanding of how workplace cultures operate, and what can be done to improve them. In this regard, the industry is less important. Workplace cultures are a function of human beings working together — and I’ll share new, fresh insights into how to understand and strategically improve your culture to be more safety focused.

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