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The Safety Diamond

Human Factors is important in our effort for safety improvement. Safety is about people and how they interact with hazards in the workplace. Therefore behaviour is still critical in protecting people from harm. Applying behavioural science and human factors is complex. I find when we get into the complexity of Human Factors some people end up turning off and dismiss it as all too hard and move on.

Fundamentally I believe behaviours of people are heavily influenced by two factors;

  1. Their individual mindset (Beliefs)
  2. The environment they operate within (Relationships)

*yes there are other factors which we could go on listing for days…

After reviewing behaviours encountered from all levels of different organisations, I found the social model developed by Stephen Karpman reflected what was going on in every situation I had encountered as a consultant and as a coach.

Karpman used a triangle to map conflicted or drama-intense relationship transactions. The Karpman Drama Triangle models the connection between personal responsibility and power in conflicts, and the hindering roles people play.

These hindering roles are defined as;

  1. The Victim: The Victim’s stance is “Poor me!” The Victim feels victimized, oppressed, helpless, hopeless, powerless, ashamed, and seems unable to make decisions, solve problems, take pleasure in life, or achieve insight.
  2. The Rescuer: The rescuer’s line is “Let me help you.” A classic enabler, the Rescuer feels guilty if they don’t go to rescue. Yet their rescuing has negative effects: It keeps the Victim dependent and gives the Victim permission to fail and avoid. When they focus their energy on someone else, it enables them to ignore their own anxiety and issues.
  3. The Persecutor: (a.k.a. Villian) The Persecutor insists, “It’s all your fault.” The Persecutor is controlling, blaming, critical, oppressive, angry, authoritative, rigid, and superior.

The Drama Triangle help me recognise and understand what was going on with regards to behaviours that hindered the safety effort and culture. When relationships are cemented in the drama triangle there is low trust and very little care for safety.

I realised WHY I was in these workplaces as a coach, as a mentor; to help change these relationships and behaviours. Instead of safety victims I was focused on creating safety champions, increase trust and develop a culture of care. To do this I redefined the roles in the hindering triangle to more progressive roles which focus on moving forward with trust.

These progressive roles are defined as;

  1. The Champion: The Champion stance is “I am in control”  The Champion feels empowered, enabled, supported, valued, grateful, and takes full responsibility in making decisions, solving problems, and making pleasure in life (work).
  2. The Mentor: The mentors line is “What‘s possible?.” An inspirer, the Mentor feels a sense of pride in others achievements. Their positive and inspiring style has a positive effect: It changes the “poor me” mindset to “I’ve got this” mindset.
  3. The Coach: (a.k.a. Challenger) The Coach provides direction, “We can”.  The Coach is involved, engaging, challenging, influencing, calm, firm, encouraging, and confident.

To truly build a culture of CARE we must establish new progressive roles which build safety champions not safety victims. The model allows for simple language and the ability to remind each other to operate above the line not below the line.

Above the line are progressive behaviours from coaches, mentors and champions;

  • Responsibility
  • Ownership
  • Accountability
  • Care

Below the line are hindering behaviours from persecutors, rescuers and victims;

  • Blame
  • Avoidance
  • Denying
  • Justifying
  • Defending

This model allows for recognising moments when we “operate below the line” and the role we are exercising, while creating an alternative suggestion on how to “operate above the line” and the role to undertake.

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