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Enhancing our culture through safety leadership

02 NOVEMBER 2023

At South32, we are united by our belief that everyone should go home safe and well, every day. We are committed to a culture of safety supported by safety leadership, safe systems, standards, and business practices.

Across our business, we deliver on our purpose and strategy by aligning our workforce behind ‘breakthroughs’ – commitments which shape our annual business planning and enable us to focus on what’s important.

Nothing is more important than the health, safety and wellbeing of our people.

Our first breakthrough is ‘we all guarantee that everyone goes home safe and well’. This asks each person in our workforce – from the CEO to the frontline workers – to take responsibility for their own safety and wellbeing, and that of their colleagues.

To promote hazard identification and management of safety risks, our people are asked to reflect on whether they can guarantee both their safety and that of their colleagues when executing their role and planned tasks. If the answer is no, then the challenge is to stop and ask what would need to be done differently to provide that guarantee. This is articulated as our ‘safety guarantee’ and it is used to create a sense of chronic unease, reduce complacency, and assist to reduce risk tolerance in relation to safety and health.

Safety and culture are inextricably linked and by supporting all of our people to feel safe, included and respected at work, we can enhance individual and collective performance. Our Group-wide Safety Improvement Program aims to enhance our culture as it relates to safety and deliver a stepchange in our safety performance.

To enhance our culture in a way that can support improved safety performance, the Safety Improvement Program drives culture transformation through four workstreams:

  1. Shift mindsets through leadership - leaders should demonstrate visible safety leadership, and commitment to our 'safety guarantee', and our values;
  2. Empower our people - everyone at South32 should feel empowered, trusted, and heard so that we all go home safe and well;
  3. Develop systems and metrics for success - systems and processes that enable effective planning and safe work; and
  4. Reduce risk with effective controls - integration of safety and risk management, with controls aimed at reducing risk and preventing harm.

LEAD Safely Every Day

In FY22, we developed our safety leadership program called LEAD Safely Every Day and in FY23 leaders across the business were enrolled in the program, which is continuing in FY24.

LEAD Safely Every Day focuses on shifting mindsets through leadership and supports our leaders in embedding a commitment to our ‘safety guarantee’ within their teams, with the aim of fostering a culture where our people routinely identify and manage safety risks every day.

The program comprises workshops and coaching for all senior leaders, managers, superintendents and supervisors so they understand our safety leadership expectations and can contribute to building a strong safety culture that helps drive safety performance.

Leaders are coached in developing an effective action plan to transform their own safety leadership and enhance engagement with their teams through visible felt leadership.

The program consists of four units, with the first two units, LEAD Safely and LEADing in Practice, demonstrating how leaders can create and embed culture.  These units apply to all leaders of teams, from the frontline to senior leaders.

Superintendents and above will complete an additional two units focused on their role as a coach, where they will participate in a workshop and coaching sessions and complete a competency assessment at the end of the program to identify ongoing development goals to incorporate into their personal development plans.

LEAD Safely Every Day applies a cascade model, deploying training and coaching from our Lead Team to frontline leaders. Each level of leadership participates in the program and then co-facilitates the program and provides coaching to the next layer of leaders.

The program commenced in July 2022 with approximately 300 leaders in our Senior Leadership Team and Operational Leadership Teams and cascaded through to a further 1,000 frontline leaders through the year. Through this cascade model, key skills and insights are passed down through the business and safety mindsets embedded via coaching and role modelling, with personal actions plans integrated into our FY24 annual performance cycle.

Shifting perceptions

As at 30 June 2023, line leaders completed the following units: 1,322 LEAD Safely Every Day workshops, 390 LEADing in Practice coaching sessions, 362 Leader as Coach workshops, and 255 Coaching in Practice coaching sessions.

While the full impact of this program on our safety culture may take time to emerge, there are some encouraging early signs. We have seen a positive shift in our people’s perceptions of our 'safety guarantee' as evidenced by stronger scores from our Your Voice employee survey.

In particular, support for the following statements both rose four per cent: “My line leader’s actions show a commitment to our safety guarantee”, and “I believe that it is possible for everyone to go home safe and well”. In addition, more than 400 employees made specific reference to our 'safety guarantee' in their responses to the survey.

There has also been a 13.9 per cent increase in workplace interactions (such as conversations and leadership presence) and 40 per cent increase in hazard reporting in FY23.

South32 has made a strong commitment to long-term safety transformation, and LEAD Safely Every Day supports all of our people to make a similar commitment to our 'safety guarantee'. In FY24, we plan to complete the roll out of LEAD Safely Every Day to supervisors and extend it to include frontline employees and frontline contractors. We also plan to embed key concepts, tools and language into our Leadership Fundamentals development program to sustain the momentum with current and future employees.

Learn more about our work to improve our safety performance and Safety Improvement Program in our 2023 Sustainable Development Report.