Building a strong safety culture is a critical part of maintaining safety and health on the job. In simple terms, safety culture is a measure of how a company values safety and how it conveys that to workers.
“Construction contractors with a strong safety culture treat safety as a core organizational value,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. “Creating a strong safety culture doesn’t happen overnight. It’s an ongoing process built on cooperation and discussion between workers and management around safety.”
One challenge for organizations that want to build a positive safety culture is how to assess where they stand. Are they succeeding in some areas and falling short in others? Do workers believe the company cares about their safety?
A new tool available from the CPWR – the Center for Construction Research and Training – can make that job easier for construction contractors. Their new Safety Climate – Safety Management Information System (SC-SMIS) offers two tools to help employers measure and improve safety culture on their jobsites.
How Is Safety Culture Measured?
The first tool, the Small Contractor Safety Climate Assessment Tool (S-CATSC), provides a basic assessment of a jobsite’s safety climate across eight indicators:
- Demonstrates Management Commitment
- Aligns Safety as a Value
- Ensures Accountability at All Levels
- Improves Supervisory Leadership
- Empowers and Involves Employees
- Communicates Effectively
- Provides Training at All Levels
- Encourages Owner/Client Involvement
The S-CATSC takes about five minutes to complete and can help contractors who may have never considered the concept of safety culture quickly assess where they stand. Respondents answer simple yes or no questions about whether certain actions are currently being taken at the company.
The second tool, the Safety Climate Assessment Tool (S-CAT), measures the same eight indicators in a more detailed survey that takes 15-20 minutes to complete. In the S-CAT, respondents are given up to six possible answers for each question. These multiple choice options assess to what extent the eight indicators are present and workers’ perception of how and why they happen. For example, the S-CATSC asks whether management visits the jobsite on a regular basis, while the S-CAT asks why management visits the jobsite (e.g., for regular safety meetings or only after a workplace injury) and who management talks to when they visit (e.g., only meets with the owner or meets with all workers on the project).
Both tools create a sample email with a unique URL employers can forward to workers. Users can create different groups to survey (e.g., frontline supervisors and workers) so that differences in how safety is perceived can be measured across the organization. Responses are grouped together and completely anonymous so they can’t be linked back to individual people. Guaranteeing the results remain anonymous is a must-have when measuring safety climate, as everyone needs to feel they can be honest if there’s a discrepancy between their perception and the perception of management.
Building a Positive Safety Culture
There’s no single action or policy that leads to a strong safety culture. Successful organizations consistently send the message that safety is a core value and then back up that message with policies that support it, including:
- Discussing safety expectations regularly at meetings and making it clear safety won’t be compromised for the sake of productivity
- Collecting information on near misses, reviewing injury trends and performing root cause analysis after incidents
- Encouraging workers to report hazards, recognizing them when they do and promptly correcting those issues
- Investing in safety by ensuring all supervisors receive comprehensive safety training (e.g., OSHA 30 hour) and workers receive task-based training when safety gaps are identified
- Integrating safety into discussions across all levels of the organization, from project owners and senior management to supervisors and workers
- Involving workers in task planning before work begins and in discussions of how jobsite hazards can be reduced
- Reacting to injuries with compassion instead of blame and supporting workers as they return to work
By assessing where the organization stands and workers’ perceptions of safety, employers can identify a path forward and start taking steps to improve. Click here to sign up for the CPWR’s free S-CATSC and S-CAT tools or get more information.