The Keystone Habit Of Safety-Critical Organisations

It’s been proven that workplace safety is not only vitally important to the well-being of employees but also for the success of the business. So, it should come as no surprise to hear that prioritising safety in the workplace should be at the top of every business owner's list. 

To demonstrate this, we’ll be covering the Alcoa case below. We’ll look at how the actions of one CEO improved workplace conditions and how this can help your company.

The Alcoa Case

In 1987, Paul O’Neill, then CEO of Alcoa, was speaking to a room of analysts and investors. Instead of talking about taxes, expenses, debt ratios, or revenue, he spoke about safety. Throughout his tenure as CEO of Alcoa, Paul O'Neill's primary focus continued to be safety.

To many people’s surprise, the benefits of his approach were immense. While worker injuries decreased dramatically, share prices skyrocketed.

O’Neill’s approach inspired Charles Duhigg’s best-selling book: The Power of Habit. In this book, he described the power of a keystone habit – a chain reaction that gives rise to other beneficial habits. For example, if you start running every day, you may find that you start sleeping better or eating better.

With Alcoa, the keystone habit of focusing on safety gave rise to many other beneficial habits. The cumulative effect of all of these habits resulted in incredible improvements to the company and its profits.


What Can We Learn From It?

The Alcoa case illustrated the power of a keystone habit. It also showed how powerful a good safety culture as a keystone habit can be in a company setting.

The Alcoa case showed that prioritising employees' occupational safety saves money that is normally lost on missed workdays from workplace injuries. It also showed that a good safety culture improves workplace satisfaction, improves morale, and increases teamwork. It makes workers feel valued and thus they become more invested in their work and doing a good job.

There are many lessons we can take away from the Alcoa case – one of which is the importance of good safety. 

It is one thing to decide to pursue a good safety culture as a keystone habit but another to actually put it into practice. 

So, how exactly can you improve your safety culture in the workplace and make it a keystone habit?

  1. Set clear goals for safety. You cannot achieve your goals if you don’t know what they are.
  2. Educate management and employees on safety practices, rules, and regulations. It is no use implementing good safety practices, rules, and regulations if people do not know what they are.
  3. Encourage and empower employees to report unsafe behaviours at work. When they do, it’s important to recognise that they did the right thing. You could even implement an incentive scheme. Moreover, you should also reward and recognise employees for good safety practices and results to reinforce this behaviour. 
  4. Implement a channel for safety reports. It should be easy for people to report safety concerns and receive helpful feedback.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot to learn from the Alcoa case. The actions of Paul O’Neill have inspired many companies to prioritise a good safety culture at work and reap the benefits.

Make sure you create a culture of safety in your organisation in order to mitigate incidents and improve employee satisfaction. 


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If your organisation is looking for a tool to involve all employees in safety reporting for better decision-making on workplace and safety strategies, have a look at the Falcony Platform. It enables your staff to participate in creating clarity on non-conformities, give feedback, ideas and input for the business, as well as preventing and decreasing the amount of friction in cross-team communications, and gather actionable data in the process.

We are building the world's first operational involvement platform. Our mission is to make the process of finding, sharing, fixing and learning from issues and observations as easy as thinking about them and as rewarding as being remembered for them.‍

By doing this, we are making work more meaningful for all parties involved.

More information at

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