Measuring Safety Culture in the Workplace

by Jude Carter

Few people can agree on what safety culture really means, much less how to measure it…if in fact it can be measured.

I like this description from Steve Simon, Culture Change Consultant, “Everyone does the safe thing whether anyone is watching or not.”

Successful safety programs have several things in common:
·They start as a strategic initiate that is rolled out company wide
·Each party knows what to expect, whether they are management or line workers. That means everyone needs to understand how his or her job and daily behavior ties into the greater goal.
·Everyone is involved. It won’t work if it is driven only from the front line. Nor will it be effective as a directive from on high.
·There is a commitment to workplace communication and a process for two-way feedback.

If you’re doing these things, does it mean that you have a safety culture? Not necessarily.

Metrics have always been a key component in determining the effectiveness of workplace safety programs. Giving visibility to statistics on loss time accidents and frequency and severity rates helps to build awareness and drive home the importance of the initiative. But that’s still not the whole story.

Employee perception surveys can help to paint the total safety picture. They go beyond the injury data to get at the emotional factors…whether or not workers believe that the company genuinely cares about employee safety and is committed to its workers.

Whether you’re trying to create a safety culture or a customer service culture, it’s all about the combination of what employees are doing and how they feel about it. Are they merely following procedures, or are they fully engaged, empowered and committed to the cause? Do you have a safety program, or a culture of safety?

Jude Carter
November 22, 2010

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