Author Bio ▼

Andrew Sharman

Andrew is the CEO of RMS Switzerland, a global consultancy specialising in safety behaviour, culture and leadership. With offices in the UK, and Switzerland.  RMS has an enviable track record of improving culture and enabling excellence for NGOs and blue chip organisations around the world through industry sectors including aviation, automotive, mining, construction, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, and FMCGs. Find out more at www.RMSswitzerland.com

Andrew is also Professor of Leadership & Safety Culture at the European Centre for Executive Development in Fontainebleau, France, and Professor of Risk Management at the University of Zurich, Switzerland.  He is a Chartered Fellow and Vice President of the Institution of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH); a Fellow of the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management; and a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership & Management.

Far from being risk-averse, he loves adventure sports including climbing, free flying, sea kayaking and swimming with sharks. He uses these pursuits to re-energise the language, perceptions and functions of safety and risk management and align the disciplines with broader organisational issues driving positive impact and enhancing the performance of individuals, teams and businesses.

Read Andrew’s New Rules of Safety series on SHP here.

Andrew’s book From Accidents to Zero is one of the fastest-selling books on safety culture of the 21st  century, find out more at www.fromaccidentstozero.com and enter code SHP 25 to receive an exclusive 25% discount for SHPonline readers.

April 9, 2019

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New Rules of Safety

The New Rules of Safety: Believe it. Or not.

Professor Andrew Sharman explores how organisational culture is created – and diluted – and considers the four key elements that practitioners should consider when seeking to establish a robust culture of care in their workplaces.

BeliefIt’s been pouring with rain today. That’s another person dead.

After a few days working with clients in Auckland, New Zealand I hopped on a flight across the South Pacific Ocean to the island of Rarotonga, capital of the Cook Islands – a micronation scattered across fifteen palm-fringed white-sand tropical islands – for a bit of R&R. My airport taxi dropped me at Island Rentals where I collected a 125cc automatic scooter, a bit of a downgrade from my usual BMW motorbike at home, but, hey, I was on holiday and this is what they offer.

EHS 2018 - Andrew SharmanMy three days in paradise were blighted with such constant deluge of rain I wondered whether I’d been caught up in a Scottish Summer. With a quick mental risk assessment I postponed my scooter sightseeing and consoled myself with a glass of the local brew at a bar next door to my lodgings.

At the bar I chatted to my neighbour, a local man by the name of Kavee. I mentioned the rain. Kavee looked at me solemnly. Then declared:“It’s because someone died today.”

In Cook Island Maori culture, heavy rain storms mark deaths. I naively enquired as to whether three days of rain meant three deaths. Kavee confirmed it did indeed, explaining there had been two road accidents and one of natural causes.

Rarotonga’s roads, though tarmac, are riddled with potholes, stray dogs, and adverse cambers as they meander through dense jungle. Despite this, I noticed that none of the locals wore helmets. And, this week, of all the tourists on bikes and scooters, only one had head protection. And that was me.

The Cook Islands have a strong and proud culture. It’s everywhere you go: from local names for places, a propensity for religion, to burying passed family members in the garden in front of one’s home. Cook Islanders believe. And it’s on these Beliefs that culture – whether in the Cooks, or in your organisation – is founded. From here, the Rituals – how we regularly do the things we do, build the culture, whilst Artefacts (the things we utilise to get things done) support our actions, and the Language we use reinforces what we do.

Fresh from working on an organisational culture transformation with a client in New Zealand I let my mind wander. Could it be that culture also develops the other way around? When Kavee explained that the two road accident deaths were tourists, my mind put two and two together. Tourists arrive on the island and see locals riding scooters without helmets. This artefact of local culture encourages a belief that the tourist can do the same. After all, they’re ‘only scooters.’ And the speed limit is ‘only 50.’ But of course the tourists don’t have the experience of riding these roads the way the locals do.

When the rental company clerk asks:“You don’t want a helmet do you?” her language reinforces the belief in the artefact. Twisting the throttle, the tourist hits the road, and witnesses ritualistic behaviours of all riders without helmets, further confirming the belief that they’ll ‘be okay’.

Then it rains. And the potholes, dogs and cambers are harder to see and avoid. The jungle creeps closer to the road edge, spilling its leaves across the blacktop. Meanwhile the tourist dreams of white sands, paradise and snorkelling. And then it’s all over. Again. And again. And again.

In just three days I counted six scooters in ditches and two hire cars fused to palm tree trunks. On a one-road-island whose 32 kilometres can be fully circumnavigated in less than an hour.

How does your organisational culture grow? What happens when new starts, fresh from safety inductions venture out onto the shopfloor and find ‘the locals’ operating in a certain way that seems incongruent with the safety practices they’ve been advised of? How long does it take before those new workers become brave and follow the local rituals, and succumb to the encouragement of local language? Or ditch the artefacts you’ve provided for their personal protection? Do they still believe in safety?

The New Rule of Safety #24: Believe it. Or not.

Culture forms one person at a time. Every action of every person contributes, every day. The psychological beliefs that underpin behaviours are key to the creation of culture – whether your focus is on compliance, commitment, or care. What safety beliefs would you like your workers to have? And how are you encouraging these effectively?

Read more of Andrew’s New Rules of Safety, here.


Professor Andrew Sharman is a consultant to leaders at Apple, BMW, Burberry, IKEA, Heineken, JaguarLandRover, MercedesBenz, Tata, and more, and the co-creator of the world’s only IOSH certificate in Behavioural Safety Leadership, find out more here. Email [email protected] and quote SHP25 to get 25% off your course.

In From Accidents to Zero – the world’s best-selling book on safety culture – Sharman shares more than 80 questions that help leaders drive strategic safety improvement, improve culture and enable excellence. Get your copy of the book with an exclusive 25% discount by using the code SHP25 at www.fromaccidentstozero.com to order your copy now. 

Sleep and Fatigue: Director’s Briefing

Fatigue is common amongst the population, but particularly among those working abnormal hours, and can arise from excessive working time or poorly designed shift patterns. It is also related to workload, in that workers are more easily fatigued if their work is machine-paced, complex or monotonous.

This free director’s briefing contains:

  • Key points;
  • Recommendations for employers;
  • Case law;
  • Legal duties.
Barbour EHS

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Nigel Evelyn-Dupree
Nigel Evelyn-Dupree

H & S no more than an expediency like, you know, the risk of being caught over the expediency of denial and omission witness the non-events post HSE Better Display Screen RR 561 2007 regardless of mitigation being readily available since the mid 90’s and display screen optimisation on-line since 2004, failure to launch of EU MSD Directive 2012 and Work Exposure Limits ISO 45001 2018 – Doh

Kevin Hard
Kevin Hard

Great to see people talking about the ‘Universal Model of Culture’ on beliefs, language, rituals and artefacts, a powerful model we have been using with our global clients for many years.