The Missing Component in Workplace Safety Programs: An Ownership Culture

Workplace safety statistics have essentially flatlined for the past 25 years, even in the midst of remarkable advancements in technology, say safety experts Ken Chapman and Tony Orlowski. What will it take to push industry safety past the plateau?

“It’s quite common for organizations to place a great deal of focus on technology and compliance — what I refer to as systems that are aimed at ‘watch, catch and punish,’” Chapman said in a recent interview. “And what you realize very quickly is that it’s just not enough. … it disengages people from a sense of their own ownership or responsibility for their own safety.”

Compliance only addresses the obvious, added Orlowski. “If your whole program is based on compliance, you’re really only focusing on a very, very small portion of what can end up getting your folks injured.”

In their new book, Safety Beyond the Numbers: A Path to Principled Leadership, Chapman and Orlowski introduce readers to the next step beyond compliance: ownership.

“Good leaders who lead good organizations adhere to both OSHA and industry standards. But that is just the foundation,” Chapman said. “They also own their moral responsibility to ensure safe outcomes, and likewise require all team members to be worthy partners in keeping themselves and the people they work beside safe. Building an ownership culture on the foundation of compliance is the essential component that drives outstanding safety results.”

Companies continue to invest a great deal of time, effort and money in newer equipment, smart controls that make good decisions, and advanced technologies to track and analyze compliance efforts, the authors explain. But these same companies spend relatively little time focusing on a component that has remain unchanged for thousands of years: human nature.

“Responsible human interaction and meaningful engagement with your people is as important to safety as technological advancement,” Orlowski added.

Safety Beyond the Numbers provides a clear path toward implementing ownership principles for leaders who see safety as more than a mandated priority. It is for leaders who view the well-being of their people as critical to the business, a prerequisite of doing business and a moral obligation.

About the Authors

Ken Chapman is an industrial psychologist with 40 years of experience working with foundries, generating plants, paper mills, steel fabrication and other heavy industry. His focus has been on leadership development and building durable safety cultures.

Tony Orlowski earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering followed by four years as a consultant in the mining industry, ultimately becoming a licensed professional engineer and completing an MBA. For the past 25 years, he has served in a series of leadership roles as a general manager and is currently an executive vice president in heavy industry.

The ownership principles described in Safety Beyond the Numbers are also available in a one-day, introductory seminar and as in-house training for organizations of all kinds.

For more information, please visit

Safety Beyond the Numbers: A Path to Principled Leadership

Publisher: SafePath Publishing

ISBN-10: ‎ 0960115307

ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0960115303

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