The safety culture is a set of practices and a mindset that is widely shared by the members of the organization when it comes to controlling the most significant risks associated with its activities. It is not something that is specific to each individual. Rather, it is a characteristic of a group or of the entire organization. It reflects the attitudes, beliefs, perceptions, and values which the employees share in relation to safety.
Safety culture can be difficult to define and measure. The majority of incidents are due to insufficient understanding of risks, lack of proper intervention to recognized risks, or lack of attention to safety, which are factors that indicate a poor safety culture.
A safety culture requires involvement, commitment, and ownership at all organizations’ levels from top management to lower management. To transform an organization's culture into safety and quality, it is ideal to begin by assessing the current climate and culture.
Why Conducting a Safety Culture Assessment?
Most safety culture assessments are performed with the objective to determine the nature, direction, perceptions, and capabilities of the site or company personnel as they work together to prevent accidents. Additionally, the assessment should investigate organizational readiness for both rapid and sustainable safety improvement and aim to discover factors that may facilitate or inhibit such improvement.
We will take you through the 7 steps that have been followed worldwide to assess a company safety culture.
1- Review Current and Past Documentations and Policies
Review documentation on current and past procedures, programs, and previous audits. Further insight can be provided by understanding the work process, the effectiveness of communication, and the incident investigation process.
In addition, consider identifying trends from incident reports. An understanding of the safety roles, responsibilities, and expectations of those in leadership positions provides insight into the support behaviors and safety leadership onboarding norms within the organization.
2- Inform Employees About the Assessment
It is important that you inform employees about conducting this company safety culture assessment. Make sure to stress out the fact that the interviews will be anonymous, and the goal is to have open and honest discussions.
The employees will need to understand that the purpose of the assessment is not to find fault but to identify improvement opportunities. Consider closing this step by validating communication occurred, rather than simply assuming.
3- Arrange a Site Visit
As early as possible in the visit, a site tour should be arranged. The tour should include the major areas of the site where work is in progress. The goal of the tour is to give the assessor an overview of logistics, tasks, and basic safety issues involved in site processes. If the assessor is familiar with the location, this tour can help provide an understanding of group and individual behaviors and how they differ when individuals are working in teams or alone.
4- Brief Management and Key Personnel
Take the opportunity to thank leaders for their support throughout this process while briefing them on this initiative and sharing with them the process progress, findings, concerns…The goal is to discover the facts about the culture and identify transformational approaches to excellence. While they should be aware that this is a high priority, the activities should not negatively affect operational activities.
5- Customize Safety Surveys
While there are several off-the-shelf perception surveys available to organizations, It is recommended that each organization develop its own customized survey. As generic perception surveys do not always measure the intended perceptions. They gather information on general categories and often miss out on specifics.
6- Conduct Group & Individual Interviews
This step complements the safety survey one. One-on-one interviews with key individuals can be used for obtaining a deeper understanding of the information collected from the customized safety perception survey. While focus groups can be comprised of a representative sample of all levels, shifts, and major tasks within the organization. Focus groups participate in highly interactive group interview sessions. They typically involve groups of no more than 10 people and are led by a trained facilitator. Focus groups generally encourage interaction among participants. A well-led focus group tends to yield extremely rich insight. Ensure the group discussion occurs by level to protect anonymity. Standard safety culture interview questions should be used, but it is common for an interview to deviate from the prepared questions to explore responses in greater depth.
7- Prepare An Action Plan Report
Conduct an exit interview or meeting with key personnel on the last day of the assessment. The goal of the exit meeting is to discuss findings. Additionally, this session should address how the current organizational, operational issues impact safety success at the location. It is recommended that the final report focuses on identifying internally actionable transformational findings and be delivered within a relatively short time frame following the completion of the on-site assessment activities.
Assessing the safety culture often provides valuable, actionable insight. The leaders are to take the right actions which affect the safety performance of the organization. The key is identifying what leader behaviors have the greatest impact on the journey to establish a strong safety culture. Involving people in change has proven to be more effective than briefing them on the resulting impact. Developing a culture, like communication and effective leadership, is gained through a continued journey.
Now that you have read about the steps to evaluate safety culture, learn about the 6 ways to create a safety culture inside your organization.