IWA Publishing

Securing executive buy-in for preventative risk management – lessons from water safety plans

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Appropriate implementation of water safety plans (WSPs) offers an important opportunity to engage in and promote preventative risk management within water utilities. To ensure success, the whole organization, especially executive management, need to be advocates. Illustrated by four case studies, we discuss the influence of organisational culture on buy-in and commitment to WSPs. Despite an internal desire to undertake risk management, aspects of organisational culture prevented these from reaching full potential. Enabling cultural features included: enthusiastic management; past incidents; accountability; insufficient regulations; image; learning and continual improvement cultures; stakeholder relationships; and empowerment of staff. Blocking features included: lack of awareness and recognition; complacency; poor internal relationships; competing priorities; lack of resources and skills; contrasting internal cultures and a lack of near miss reporting. Benefits of WSP implementation and how management are committed are also discussed. We offer some suggestions to those wishing to generate executive buy-in such as: understanding reasons for hesitance; demonstrate benefits; avoiding complacency; highlight building blocks of WSPs and recognising the value of using the WSP approach to inform sound investment planning. We urge water utilities to consider the influence of organisational culture on the success and sustainability of WSP adoption, and to better understand how effective leadership can mould culture to support implementation.

Keywords: buy-in, leadership, organisational culture, public health, risk management, water safety plans

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