Safety Culture Assessment

Introduction

The Safety Culture Assessment is designed to help clients understand the effect of culture on safety performance and begin the process of developing a strong safety culture. It focuses on the human factors of accident prevention. These, often more than policy or procedure, determine safety performance. We view the Safety Culture Assessment as much more than another measurement tool; we have designed the entire process to function as a transformative, culture change activity.

The Assessment has three major elements: the Perception Survey, focus groups and management interviews, and the feedback report and action planning.

CCC Safety Culture Perception Survey™

Perception surveys provide an excellent means of gathering information and opinions from employees. When conducted by a neutral third-party in an anonymous, non-intrusive way, they gather honest, insightful responses. Since safety culture is comprised of the norms, assumptions and beliefs of the group, we have found the CCC Safety Culture Perception Survey™ to be the single best means to understand what is going on below the surface of a company safety program.

The validated, CCC Safety Culture Perception Survey™ has been in use since 1991 and has been given to more than 250,000 people at over 750 facilities whose locations span the globe. The 52-item Perception Survey has been designed to provide an X-Ray of the underlying safety culture of a group or organization. Ideally, it is administered to as close to 100% of the group’s population as practical. Simply taking part in the safety culture perception survey makes respondents feel that they have a voice in the process and an investment in the results. If possible, we recommend that the results, in the form of a complete CCC feedback report, be made available to all employees.

Although the results of the perception survey do correlate closely with traditional safety metrics (see Figure 1), the survey is not intended as another measurement tool for grading safety performance and leadership effectiveness. Rather, it should be viewed as a launching pad for the culture change process. The survey—divided into 12 subscales that correspond to the different dimensions of culture and organizational systems, and broken down by relevant demographics and departments—provides in-depth information about areas of strength and weakness in the safety culture, as well as significant “perception gaps” between subgroups, e.g. management and hourly, supervisors and management, assembly and maintenance.

Clients have not only used the safety culture perception survey results to discover strengths and weaknesses in their current organizational culture and for subsequent action planning, but also to provide a baseline against which to measure future progress, and to evaluate the effectiveness of safety culture improvements.

Focus Groups and Interviews

The CCC Safety Culture Perception Survey™ data, while meaningful, is much more useful when interpreted by the employees themselves. To understand why some scores are high, some low, and why there are significant discrepancies in others, it is necessary to look deeper at the underlying causes.

It is recommended that Focus Groups (4-6 people per group) conducted by the consultant and with representatives from all departments, meet for approximately one hour to discuss results of the perception survey. During focus groups, participants are presented with some of the survey findings and asked to provide examples and illustrations from their own work experience and knowledge. The focus groups provide qualitative data that amplify the quantitative data from the survey. It is recommended that at least 15-20% of workforce be included in the focus groups. The consultant takes notes and includes as many of the comments as possible, as close to verbatim as possible, in the feedback report.

To gather a more complete picture, Management Interviews should be held with selected members of management of each department to gather their input into cultural issues. Each interview runs approximately 30 – 45 minutes.

Feedback Report

Survey data is computer scored and then analyzed along with focus group and interview data within the framework of the Simon Open System Model™. The analysis involves a broad-based examination of employee and management perceptions.

Upon completion of data analysis, a written report is created that summarizes assessment findings and makes appropriate recommendations for addressing areas needing improvement in the safety culture.

A one-day survey feedback session is held to validate the assessment findings, and reach agreement on the nature of the baseline safety culture. This session is usually held with management personnel, union leadership and members of the safety committee jointly. This mix provides a jumping off point for the collaborative action necessary to effect a positive safety culture change.

Action Planning

Following discussion of the feedback report and reaching agreement to move forward with the culture change process, a one-day action planning process can be used to develop a proposed set of interventions for beginning to improve the safety culture. Frequently, the Action Planning Session is held with the same or subset of the group who participate in the Survey Feedback Session.

Safety Culture Assessment

“Although not an easy process, [Culture Change] is something that I would recommend highly. It’s something that made a huge difference in our business, but not only in our business but in the lives of our employees and their families which is really what the safety program is all about.”

Pat Cowher, Inspection & Repair Services, EHS Manager at GE

Who Should Conduct the Safety Culture Assessment

Safety Culture Assessment is a critical element for any organization that wants to target areas for safety culture improvement. We see culture as an integral dimension of every safety improvement effort. Assessing the safety culture is as important for those organizations who have excellent safety performance as it is to those that are desperate to stem the tide of injuries.

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