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How’s Your Safety Culture?


Perception IS Reality, using a Safety Perception Survey to gauge your safety culture and the viewpoints of your employees.

Mostly everyone agrees that having a strong safety culture is the foundation to every strong safety program.  If the culture isn’t strong, no amount of training or written programs can account for the short fall.

While most everyone agrees how important safety culture is, very few know how to assess a safety culture and where some of the opportunities may lie. Using a Safety Perception Survey can help lead the company in the right direction business owners and executives are proud of what they’ve built and often believe everyone else sees the organization the same way they do, including their own employees.

People form their own opinions in context using what they hear, see, and learn from what is going on around them in their own universe. These perceptions often differ wildly from what the owner or executive team perceive.

Owners and executives make a big mistake by fooling themselves into believing their favorable perception of the company is identical to that of its employees. A properly executed safety perception survey can help identify the gap between what owners and executives believe and what is perceived by everyone else in the organization. They say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but if the owners and executive team don’t know what’s broken, they can’t fix it.

Anonymous safety perception surveys collect the information companies need to address gaps and better understand what will be needed to improve the culture of safety. Safety perception surveys are also consistent with the concept of continuous improvement and can be administered periodically to measure progress in the culture of safety.

Horton Safety Consultants developed a 25-question, standardized safety perception survey to help reveal the culture of safety within any organization. The questions are direct and ask participants, for example, to indicate if the company emphasizes safety as much as they do productivity. Survey participants provide simple agree/disagree answers to eliminate survey takers from taking a middle of the road approach and appearing neutral in their responses. Questions are asked in a way where respondents agree, or disagree, with the premise of the question.

To maximize participation, safety perception surveys are completed on a Scantron printed question and answer form anonymously, collected and sent to Horton Safety Consultants for scanning and compilation. Employees are instructed to take 10 or 15 minutes to complete the survey forms during a weekly safety toolbox talk or regularly scheduled safety meeting. Survey Monkey and other online survey services are not used because some employees have no access to internet at home, or may not bother to participate in the survey at all.

Survey results also detail responses by the length of service with the company, and the anonymous respondent’s role in the company including front-line worker, supervisor, or executive and office employee. Attitudes and beliefs can vary greatly based on length of service, or role, with the company, but provide valuable insights in terms of where challenges may lie. Safety consultants analyze the results and meet with the client to discuss the strengths and weaknesses identified in the survey as well as developing a plan for improvement.

Some companies make the mistake of not communicating the results of the survey to employees. Soliciting important feedback, but not communicating the results, creates suspicion and cynicism. Results of the survey should be carefully reviewed and discuss with a safety professional and a plan developed to address the gaps identified in the survey. Plans to improve results should be communicated to all employees. It is also a time to share all of the positives discovered by the survey.

Industry leading companies develop, and monitor, safety culture carefully because they know how important a culture of safety is to the success of their safety and risk management program. The vast majority of accidents and injuries result from unsafe behaviors, and the culture to which the employee is exposed can influence the safe or unsafe decisions the employee makes throughout the day. In fact, measuring improvement in safety culture is one effective way of measuring leading indicators, rather than waiting on counting the lagging indicators such as accidents and injuries. Have you conducted a safety perception survey for your business or operation?

Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.