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How to measure and improve your safety culture

The cost of neglecting safety in the workplace cannot be underestimated. The annual cost of work-related injury, illness and disease has been assessed at more than $60 billion*, representing 4.8% of GDP.

Despite this and many other worrying workplace safety statistics, many organisations continue to concentrate on only one side of the safety equation, by tracking safety incidents and then trying to identify and fix the cause. Lag indicators (reactive measures) are the traditional way to monitor an organisation’s performance in the area of safety incidents. But does this approach show whether there is a constructive and robust safety culture on the shop floor, onsite or on the tarmac? And is a constructive and robust safety culture likely to result in the reduction of safety incidents?

While many senior leaders rely on lag indicators to support their safety strategies, high performance organisations are hard at work creating positive safety cultures and environments. These organisations understand the importance of complementing the necessary safety audits with a measurement and review of employee behaviour, attitudes, leadership style, engagement levels and continuous improvement initiatives. Measuring these lead indicators (predictive measures) of safety generate a more proactive and holistic approach to safety management and improving safety culture.

Insync Surveys’ Safety Culture Survey is based on leading research and measures four factors to determine an organisation’s level of and commitment to safety culture and engagement:

  • Psychological – do I feel safe, valued and supported at work?
  • Behavioural – what do managers and workers do to create a safer workplace?
  • Situational – what systems, procedures, equipment and education does the organisation have in place that make for a safer workplace?
  • Employee engagement – am I engaged with the organisation? Research shows that engaged employees are less likely to be involved in safety incidents.

The results of the Safety Culture Survey reveal to leaders:

  • exactly what the safety culture is in each area of the organisation and overall – areas of best practice are highlighted as well as “hot spots” where improvement is required
  • whether existing safety systems, processes and education are adequate in the eyes of the employees
  • if team leaders who talk the safety talk actually walk the safety walk
  • whether employees feel safe at work
  • a well structured framework for continuous improvement

Measuring employees’ understanding and expectations of safety culture, while continuing to track safety incidents, gives organisations a complete view of their safety climate. Introducing safety lead indicators means organisations can be proactive about safety, something everyone from employees to company directors should find reassuring.

* Costs in the 2008-09 financial year from Safe Work Australia (2013), “Key Work Health and Safety Statistics, Australia”

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