June 18, 2015
In the next month, Mike Goddu will be speaking to audiences in Perth, Australia and Seoul, Korea on Leading Safety Differently. Here he explores these two different cultures, and how there is a similar need and opportunity for Safety Leadership.
In 2013, ten people were killed in the mining industry in Australia. 2014 saw an uptick in fatal accidents not limited to the mining sector: the first half of 2014 saw one fatal resource industry accident every 15 days. Again, in 2015, this trend continues. Thus far, there have been nine mining deaths in the first six months of the year. In a previous post, I noted with great concern the list of recent fatal incidents besetting Australian industry this year—you can read it here.
Why the surge? Looking at these incidents with traditional methods, there are no apparent common causes. But I believe it is more than a statistical anomaly.
Could the tremendous price pressures on the resources industry be at cause? Virtually all mining companies and their prime contractors have made major cuts. Some companies have stopped producing or have even gone out of business. Safety programs have been cut along with other costs. The correlation is strong and scary in my view.
The pressure on safety management seen in Australia can be seen in Korea as well. Some weeks ago, I wrote about a fatal incident in Korea—you can read the post here. Recent tragedies include the sinking of the passenger ferry Sewol in April 2014. Like many fatal incidents, there was not one critical cause, such as weather. Weather played a role in the Sewol sinking and deaths, but so did lax training, leadership, regulatory oversight, “drift” from procedures, inadequate emergency response and more. Headlines in Korea thereafter reflected a theme: “Time to Rethink ‘Hurry-Hurry’ Culture of Korea.”
Most people know that Korea lifted itself from the ashes of terrible wars and built one of the most modern, industrial and commercial economies in the world. Korea has been a powerhouse of industrial and technological success. Certainly, this will continue to some degree.
But Korea’s future growth is not as certain. Technology and industry competition comes from many countries, not the least of which is China. Korea is losing its market share edge on cost, quality and technology in a number of industries.
Could the success of these two countries in the last 50 years have plateaued? Will a continued emphasis on technology and a drive for production and progress result not just in marginal returns but in more terrible consequences?
The Korean culture actively subjugates the will of the individual to that of the larger whole. In Australia, the gap in world view between management and the workforce is so stark it has caused a rift. Are these cultural attributes sustainable?
On July 7, I will be speaking on the topic of safety culture—addressing the sorts of questions I am posing here—as part of a panel presentation in Seoul, Korea. Also on the panel will be a senior member of Korea’s Occupational Safety and Health Agency, a university professor and a long-time site manager with extensive experience implementing cultural change and safe work programs in large Korean shipyards. All of us will examine behavior-based programs and safety culture.
JMJ suggested that perhaps there was a bigger opportunity here. Rather than just reinforcing the rules, what might provide a better overall outcome?
Following that, I will be speaking with well-known authors and safety experts Sidney Dekker and Todd Conklin in Perth, Australia at the Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME) Health and Safety Conference on 27 July. The audience will be the membership of the CME for Western Australia, one of the richest and most productive resource regions in the world.
These are two very different countries and audiences: Korea has a traditional hierarchical culture with largely deferential and loyal relationships in the workplace. Australia has a long and storied history of individual entrepreneurism, adventure and worker-management strife.
There are, however, interesting parallels between the two countries: both have seen decades of great progress and success beginning in the 1950’s, including progress and success in safety management and performance. But prosperity in most measures has stalled. Both are facing very difficult competitive and market pressures. And both have seen tragic safety incidents in recent history.
With these struggles in mind, how could the extraordinary energy and initiative present in the fabric and workforce of each country be tapped newly to fuel the next boom for each country? Is there an opportunity for the leadership of the resource companies in Australia and the industrial, technology and manufacturing companies of Korea to tap into the next wave of success by bringing the strengths, contributions and ingenuity of their people to the forefront?
As with safety, I believe investing in people can provide the pathway to success that Australia and Korea are seeking. In fact, I believe Safety Leadership—embodied by new perspectives, catalytic change and genuine, active care for people in the workplace—is a lever that can move the world for Australia and Korea. It’s a lever that will not only save lives but make a new level of prosperity possible for both.
Here is a link to the upcoming event in Seoul.
And the conference in Australia.
Whether you can make it to one of these events or not, I welcome your comments and observations. As always, I appreciate your reading.