News story 1st Jun 2016

Successful first Community of Practice Symposium

The Department of Management hosted a successful first Community of Practice Safety Culture and Climate Symposium on 28 April 2016. Sponsored by the Institute for Safety, Compensation, and Recovery Research (ISCRR), the symposium brought together 77 participants from across the field, with regulators, industry representatives and academics in attendance.

There were a range of interactive panel sessions and speaker sessions.  A featured keynote address was delivered by Dr Frank Guldenmund from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

Dr Guldenmund discussed tensions between perceptions (by employees at all levels) and the reality (in the workplace) around the safety culture of organisations. When two people have a different perception of a situation, the goal of achieving a safe environment is clouded by disparate and tacit assumptions and beliefs.

Community of Practice Symposium keynote speaker Mark Griffin

Professor Mark Griffin delivers his address

The reality of different perspectives across a diverse work environment is particularly challenging for an organisation’s safety regulator. Dr Guldenmund stressed the importance of a ‘Humble Inquiry’ to understand the way employees view safety guidelines, requirements, norms, and values around safe behaviour.

“Humble Inquiry is the fine art of drawing someone out. Of asking questions to which you don’t already know the answer, and of building a relationship based on curiosity in the other,” Dr Guldenmund explained.

“When perceptions (meanings) don’t line up, (painful) misunderstandings might occur,” he adds. Which is also the lesson for regulators aiming for a positive and effective safety environment.

The other keynote address of the day was delivered by Professor Mark Griffin from the University of Western Australia. Professor Griffin discussed stability and change in dynamic safety environments.

In addition to the two inspiring speakers, the symposium included a panel discussion with six distinguished participants, moderated by Monash Business School’s Professor Helen DeCieri:

  • Ms Jennie Hunter (Workplace Health and Safety Queensland)
  • Ms Michele Lewis (Mecwacare)
  • Ms Jodie Deakes (Safework NSW)
  • Mr Ross Pilkington (Worksafe Victoria)
  • Professor Mark Griffin (University of Western Australia)
  • Dr Frank Guldenmund (Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands)

The panel tackled thought-provoking issues such as: practical definitions and actionable distinctions between 'safety culture' and 'safety climate'; the role of leadership in safe workplaces; effective drivers for a safe working environment; specific strategies for health and safety regulators;  and whether a positive safety climate (that reduces workplace accidents and injury) can also be linked to other desirable outcomes such as employee engagement, productivity, and innovation.

“Overall, the First Community of Practice Safety Culture and Climate Symposium was a resounding success. Initially, we only expected about 30-40 participants and it is very encouraging to see that we nearly doubled on that figure,” said Monash Business School researcher Dr Trang Vu, symposium convenor.

“We’ve received very positive feedback with some great suggestions for next year. The Community of Practice is growing. And through these events, we can place our research in an important practical context,” she concluded.

For the full program and presentations, please visit the Symposium page. More information on the Community of Practice can be found here.