How to measure safety culture – Safety Perception Surveys

What does a safety perception survey do?

Safety perception surveys help you understand how safety is perceived in the mind of your workers and management teams which will highlight your overall safety culture. It paints a picture of the mental real estate that safety works within and how it compares to your assumptions.

At a basic level, when you remove regulations and compliance, safety is just an idea connected to your company, its workers and leadership. As an example, safety might be viewed as a necessary "evil" to start performing work. If this is the case, actions will need to be taken to improve the stigma of safety, likely by showcasing the value that safety brings to the table vs the pencil whipping exercise that it might be. Or, for another example, a company could have a "fear" driven safety culture, where workers only perform safety when they know or see the safety person coming to the workplace.

Why are safety perception surveys important?

Safety perception gets formed over time through different experiences. A worker's personal experience with safety can spread throughout a workforce and solidify a positive or negative experience among those who may know nothing about safety.

Safety perception surveys hold a crucial position in discovering your organization's safety equity – the value safety brings to a business. 

Businesses want to maintain high levels of safety equity as this directly impacts quality and productivity.

As workers have 'ownership' over safety's image in their minds, businesses must try to affect this. You'll first need to measure safety perception regularly, track it over time, and identify what drives improvements.

A safety perception survey is a painless and cost-effective way to measure your worker's views on safety. Great safety leaders regularly employ it through various mechanisms, like one-to-one interviews and casual conversation. 

Questions to ask in a safety perception survey

Four core human factors lead to discovering your worker's views on safety:

  • Cognitive – the concepts that a worker associates with safety
  • Emotional – the feelings that a worker associates with safety
  • Language – how a worker describes safety
  • Action – the experiences a worker has with safety

When you use a safety perception survey, focus on these four key areas that will help you understand safety's cognitive, emotional, language, and action factors. The following sections will describe each area of the survey and provide some examples to get you started.

Cognitive

We're trying to draw out the associations that workers connect to safety. Start with open-ended questions and then tighten using multi or single-select lists.

Example questions:

  • Open-ended question: When you think of safety, what's the first thing that comes to mind?
  • List question: Which words describe safety for you?
  • Positive to negative question: Of the words selected, how strongly do you feel about them?

Emotional

To understand further, we need to identify the feelings connected to safety and if those draw them closer or pull them away from safety.

Example questions:

  • Open-ended question: What feelings do you experience when you think of safety?
  • List question: How would you describe your attachment to safety?
  • List question: When you think of safety, how do you feel?

Language

These questions teach you how workers internalize and understand safety by asking how they describe it to others.

Example questions:

  • Open-ended question: Use three words to describe safety?
  • Open-ended question: How would you describe safety to a co-worker
  • List question: Write the words you use to describe safety?

Action

We're looking to answer how positive or negative a worker's previous experience has been with safety.

Example questions:

  • Open-ended question: How would you describe your previous experience with safety?
  • List question: Which words best describe your previous experience with safety?
  • Scale question: From 1-10, how likely are you to stop working if you feel unsafe?

Who should participate in your safety perception survey? 

This should be all-inclusive and tracked over time. Employees and contractors alike should be involved in this process. As mentioned above, the workers are the ones who own the perception of safety, not management or the safety department, so if a contractor is working alongside your employees and they have a negative view of safety, that view will propagate throughout your workforce.

While workers own the perception of safety, management needs to lead by example, influencing the overall perception. Just like one negative contractor can affect your staff, one negative manager can do the same.

Safety perception surveys have three primary outcomes:

1. Understand the impact of your communication styles on safety perception.

2. Resolve the gap between the safety qualities you want to portray and how the worker actually feels.

3. Identify areas for improvement based on worker perceptions.

Tracking and managing these stages can be hard to do without an intuitive solution.

SafetySuite is a solution that gives safety professionals the tools necessary to stop pushing paper, spark safety culture, and reduce incidents by simplifying safety implementation throughout your workforce.

Our All-in-One solution enables you to perform surveys like this on a scheduled basis while providing you with the dashboards to analyze the results, so you can create actions to improve safety throughout your organization.

We have four pillars of safety implementation.

Engage, Collect, View, and Share. With these four pillars, we've helped hundreds of organizations transform their safety and become easily compliant.

measure safety culture

Over time, results can be trended and compared to see how safety perception changes and help you identify whats made the biggest impact.

Aerial Boom & Scissor Lift Pre-Shift Inspections with Free Training Course

The aerial lift is a piece of complex machinery and requires regular inspections to ensure safety for your operators. Not to mention – ANSI and your manufacturer recommend it.

The ANSI/SIA 92.6-1999 standards state that regular inspections need to be performed frequently, as well as annually. So how often is frequently? and what is involved in an inspection?

Let's break down when your aerial lift should be inspected, clarify the inspection itself, and give you some pointers.

ROUTINE AERIAL LIFT INSPECTIONS

The term routine might be a little unclear. According to Genielift, inspections are performed if:

  • The aerial lift has been purchased used.
  • It's been in service for three months or 150 hours, whichever comes first.
  • The equipment has been out of service for longer than three months.

Only a qualified mechanic or technician can perform the inspection.

ANNUAL AERIAL LIFT INSPECTIONS

Aerial lift inspections must be performed within 13 months from the date of the last annual inspection. The most recent date of inspection should be posted on the aerial lift.

Similar to a frequent inspection, only a qualified mechanic or technician can perform the inspection.

The manufacturer specifies the areas of inspection, so they'll vary. Generally, the technician will test and inspect multiple machine functions. These can include:

  • All controls for speed, smoothness, and motion limits
  • Lower level controls, such as the upper control overrides
  • Check the lifting operations for adjustments, wearing, and damage
  • All emergency and safety control points
  • Lubrication of moving parts and inspect filter elements, hydraulic oil, engine oil, coolant.
  • Visual checks of the structural and critical components such as fasteners, pins, shafts and locking devices
  • Inspect the placards, warnings and control markings
  • And anything else specified by the manufacturer that is specific to your use.

If any problems have been identified, your Aerial Lift cannot be put into service until corrected.

RECOMMENDATIONS

If your ceiling isn't high enough to accommodate the height of your aerial lift, you will need to perform the inspection outside to reach full height. With increased risk from the winter months, it's recommended to get your aerial lift inspection completed in late spring, summer, or early fall, so check your records and schedule an inspection with your aerial lift dealer.

Take our free training course here to find out more about;

  • The importance of pre-operational inspections
  • Walk-around inspection requirements
  • Ground and platform control function tests

Completion of this free training course does not establish full certification for mobile equipment operations, but it's a great start to get you going.



 

Adopt Proactive Measures to Maximize Workplace Safety

The Exxon Valdez oil spill. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The Mottarone cable car accident in Italy. What these accidents share in common is that they were preventable—if proper safety precautions had been taken, they most likely could have been averted.

These and other large-scale events have garnered media coverage and public scrutiny. But smaller events happen every day to companies, affecting individuals as well as employers. Notably, Work Injury Source cites three categories of common workplace injuries that result in time missed from work:

  • Sprains, strains, and tears. Injuries to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons can result from twisting, stretching, overuse, or overexertion.
  • Soreness or pain. Chronic back pain is one of the most-common complaints among workers whose jobs require them to sit in an office chair for hours a day.
  • Cuts, lacerations, and punctures. These injuries can range in severity and can cause a variety of different types of physical limitations.

 

Simple errors and lapses, such as spills, poor ergonomics, and open cabinets or locker doors, or simply a piece of trash on a hard floor, can all result in unintended injury. 

So, what is the best way to create workplace safety and foster an environment where prevention prevails over safety lapses?

Moving from reactive to proactive 

The most effective safety programs are geared at preventing workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths—and at reducing financial repercussions for workers, their families and employers. According to the U.S Department of Health and Labor, safety and health programs help businesses:

  • Prevent workplace injuries and illnesses
  • Improve compliance with laws and regulations
  • Reduce costs, including significant reductions in workers' compensation premiums
  • Engage workers
  • Enhance their social responsibility goals
  • Increase productivity and enhance overall business operations

 

Developing employee awareness around decreasing safety risks can go a long way toward preventing incidents. However, the best-laid safety plan is effective only if implemented and accepted across all levels of the organization, which means it also should be simple enough for employees to understand and embrace.

Increasing employee engagement and compliance

To help achieve employee buy-in, employers should focus on employee engagement as well as on safety reporting and compliance. 

Even the most engaged employees, however, may be tempted to sacrifice precautions for speed. Some may feel that following certain safety procedures, such as putting on protective gear or wearing a safety harness, takes too much time and that it is more important to get the job done quickly. Others may feel that safety measures aren’t needed to get the job done, or they may not like being told what to do. 

Maximizing employee adoption of workplace safety and compliance measures typically requires three strategies: fostering a sense of ownership, providing training, and tracking. 

1. Fostering ownership

Ensuring employees have a voice and a sense of ownership can go a long way toward increasing engagement in a safety program. One way to do this is to establish an employee safety committee where employees can have a voice and participate in the organization’s safety culture. 

Providing feedback as well as rewards and recognition also can help engage workers and emphasize the company’s commitment to establishing and following sound safety practices. Importantly, employers need to ensure that workers  do not experience retaliation when they report safety violations or hazards or when they offer suggestions for making their workplace and jobs safer.

2. Training employees

Long-term exposure to any potential risk leads to complacency. For this reason, it is important to regularly conduct safety talks—web-based or in-person. This form of training, when conducted regularly, has been shown to reduce injury rates by up to 81%. 

 Topics can range widely, including how to properly operate certain types of machinery and equipment, proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitary procedures, and navigating certain environmental conditions, to name a few. Importantly, to be effective and ensure employees don’t “tune out,” training needs to include new information. 

3. Tracking performance and outcomes

Once a program is in place, organizations need to track employee compliance, as well as monitor the outcomes of safety initiatives. The most effective way to do so is by using digital environment, health and safety (EHS) solutions, such as SafetyTek. 

Using EHS systems, companies can produce reports and dashboards to track, for example:

  • How many employees have completed training, as well as those employees that haven’t done so.
  • Which workers require updated training to maintain their certification for safely operating certain vehicles, machines or equipment.
  • The level of injuries, accidents, or other safety incidents versus the level of training being provided.

 

Watch Webinar on How to Measure and Track Safety Performance  

 

Additionally, modern EHS solutions, such as SafetyTek, enable employees to self-report using their mobile phones. In doing so, they help to give employees a greater sense of ownership in ensuring the safety of themselves, their co-workers, and the surrounding community.




Building a Better brand with Solid Safety Practices

June is National Safety Month—a great time to review your organization’s safety policies and vision to help ensure they move your brand forward. And although “safety” may be something more often associated with industries, such as construction,  transportation, aviation, trucking, and manufacturing, every single company is affected by good (or bad) safety practices. 

Reputation can make or break your brand. But while strategies for marketing and advertising abound, one often overlooked factor in creating a positive perception of a company and its products is safety.

Where none of us wants to be is on the defense after an incident occurs, which means being proactive is imperative if we want to protect and enhance our brand image. Crisis management, which happens after an incident or threat occurs, is different than risk management, which involves proactively putting in place the policies and procedures that stave off incidents and threats. The latter is where we want to be to provide maximum value to our brand.

Impressions matter...to everyone

Good brand value helps companies attract better employees, entice consumers to buy their products and services, and enhance their revenues. Conversely, a brand whose value is diminished can expect the opposite.

In their Harvard Business Review article “Reputation and Its Risks,” authors Robert G. Eccles, Scott C. Newquist, and Roland Schatz note that just one negative event can have a large impact on a company even if it has been perceived positively in the marketplace. They cite BP, which suffered reputational blows after a March 2005 refinery fire and explosion in Texas that killed 15 people and a pipeline leak in Alaska in 2006. BP blamed the refinery incident on lax operating practices; federal investigators claimed cost-cutting also was a factor. Regardless, reputation damage from these incidents was extensive.

By contrast, Qantas is an example of a company whose name has become synonymous with safety. Once again in 2021, it was named the safest airline by AirlineRatings.com, which cited Qantas’ initiative in being “the first or second (airline) to introduce the 16 major safety enhancements introduced in the past 60 years.” This focus has made the Australian airline an icon of excellence.

Physical and psychological safety

Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, has had its share of challenges in the safety arena.  Most recently, the company has come under fire for a higher-than-normal injury rate of employees at its warehouse facilities. To help untarnish its reputation, the company has invested hundreds of millions the past year in safety enhancements, including in the recent rollout of its “WorkingWell” employee safety and injury prevention program. 

With any safety program, top-down corporate mandates have a limited influence on employees. To get more buy-in and active participation, HR and safety managers need to enlist employees as collaborators in adopting safety measures. Employees also need to feel safe in reporting actual or perceived safety violations without fear of retaliation or humiliation. This “psychological safety” – the belief that one won’t be punished for speaking up – not only creates a culture where employees feel safe, but it also encourages them to become part of the broader solution. 

Notably, when Google conducted a study of high-performing teams several years ago, it discovered that instilling a culture where employees feel “safe” to share ideas and identify issues without fear of repercussions leads to higher employee engagement and retention, which enhances a company’s brand internally and externally. 

Self-reporting and assessment can be done on an individual level; another approach is to set up a safety committee that brings together employees from all levels and job descriptions in a respectful environment. This ensures that prevention and mitigation policies and processes reflect the needs and concerns of team members across the organization. 

At the same time, collaboration only works when organizations establish a sense of trust. Employees who fear lost wages may not report safety violations or injuries. Similarly, an employee may come to work tired after caring for a sick child all night. Businesses can mitigate fears and create psychological safety with policies that offer, for example, flexibility to adjust job responsibilities for the day, shift trading, or paid leave.

Top-notch safety programs are a blend of clear policies, effective reporting, and proactive prevention. Formal, written safety policies only take companies so far, and many businesses’ good intentions are hampered because they rely on paper-based safety systems that are more effective at reporting what happened than preventing incidents in the first place. 

The companies most successful at building a brand anchored on safety and ensuring customers’ confidence take advantage of digital environment, health and safety (EHS) solutions. Using EHS systems like SafetyTek, they can not only report quickly on safety practices, compliance, events, and other related information but also predict and address potential safety hazards, and ensure that employees are well-trained on safety best practices. 

The bottom line

Plain and simple, safety is good for business. An effective safety practice protects employees and raises their morale; it also creates positive impressions about the brand, which can raise its value in the eyes of consumers and shareholders. From health protection protocols to ergonomic/mechanical safety and a workplace culture where employees feel comfortable and valued, sound safety practices are vital to a company’s success and viability.



Make Health and Safety a Competitive Advantage

The signs of a strengthening economy are everywhere as industries that had to shut down or significantly scale back operations last year are roaring back to life. In the United States alone, gross domestic product (GDP) for the first quarter of 2021 grew 6.4%, according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the wake of this growth, companies across a range of industries are competing for employees, customers, and market share. Yet many of these organizations are missing out on one of the most important competitive factors in today's market: employee health and safety.

 Let's look at how having strong health and safety practices in place can complement other factors—such as quality products and service, innovation, timely delivery, convenience, and attractive pricing—in gaining a competitive edge. 

Competing for Employees

Today, many businesses are struggling to attract and retain employees even as the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Reports an unemployment rate that has stubbornly hovered just above 6.1%. Larger corporations are tackling the challenge by increasing compensation. For example, Amazon announced that it is increasing the wages of 500,000 workers, and in many cases, the company is offering $1,000 signing bonuses. Similarly, McDonalds is providing $500 signing bonuses at its corporate-owned locations. 

 The financial incentives aren't necessarily leading everyone to line up for jobs in droves. Some of today's unemployed are parents who cannot afford to go back to work until their children fully return to the classroom. Millions of others are not yet convinced that the pandemic is under enough control for them to safely take jobs that require them to be onsite. Moreover, many of the unemployed are rethinking their careers. According to a 2021 survey by the Pew Research Center, 66% of unemployed people have "seriously considered" changing their field of work.

 All of these factors point to the need for organizations to promote both opportunity for growth and quality of life in recruiting employees. The latter means having strong health and safety measures in place. After all, behind the statistics for workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths are the very real suffering and financial hardship these events can cause for workers and their families.

 The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends focusing on proactive strategies for ensuring health and safety. "Traditional approaches are often reactivethat is, problems are addressed only after a worker is injured or becomes sick, a new standard or regulation is published, or an outside inspection finds a problem that must be fixed," OSHA states. "Recommended practices recognize that finding and fixing hazards before they cause injury or illness is a far more effective approach."

Promoting compliance with OSHA health and safety standards is one way to demonstrate to current and prospective employees is that the company is making their welfare a priority. Another is conducting safety tours—live or via video—with job candidates to dispel impressions of dirty and unsafe work environments. A third is to market back the safety training, reporting, and personal protective equipment (PPE) in place to demonstrate the organization’s safety culture. Finally, the use of modern cloud and mobile-based safety training and management can attract younger candidates who expect similarities between their work and consumer experiences.

 

Attracting Customers

Whether an organization’s customers are consumers or other businesses, purchase decisions increasingly go beyond cost. There is an increasing awareness and demand for corporate responsibility that extends across employees, the community, and the environment. 

For example, in May 2020, a coalition of Iowa groups called for a ”Meatless May” consumer boycott of meat to demand better working conditions for employees in crowded factories that had become Covid-19 super-spreaders.

Among business customers, there’s also growing demand for suppliers and partners to ensure safe work conditions. Notably, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) across a range of industries understand that their own brand value can be helped or hindered by how well subcontractors or suppliers protect their employees. Beyond brand value, there’s also the risk of litigation, for example when there is an injury with a subcontractor’s employee working onsite for a construction company. As part of risk mitigation, many businesses will look at OSHA compliance and injury rates factors when choosing with whom to partner.

For highly regulated industries—notably food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, and medical products—safety is key to federal compliance. In these sectors, injuries can potentially cause contamination that requires whole batches or production runs to be rejected or recalled. The Wall Street Journal noted that a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report on Emergent BioSolutions did not maintain the plant in a clean and sanitary condition and that workers failed to adhere to proper procedures for wearing sterile gowns. Emergent is the contract manufacturer that contaminated 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

The Emergent is one example of how failing to adhere to safety procedures at one company can disrupt business continuity for its customer. There are many more cases where injuries to workers have disrupted not only a manufacturer’s business but that of one or more customers. Anytime a machine or piece of equipment is involved in an injury, it needs to be pulled offline until a full review and reporting are completed and any required adjustments to improve safety have been made. Depending on the set-up, the review of the machinery or equipment could put a pause on the entire production line, delaying the delivery of parts and in turn delaying the customer’s ability to bring products to market. 

Companies can compete on safety and ensure business customers’ confidence by using digital environment, health and safety (EHS) solution to quickly report on safety practices, compliance, events and other related information. The live or virtual safety tours with job candidates can also be used to market back safety practices to prospective customers.

 

Growing Market Share

The money that companies pay as a result of employee injuries is money that cannot be invested in areas that contribute to growing the business’ market share—from research and development, to employees, facilities, equipment, and other capital investments.

Consider the 2020 Liberty Mutual Safety Index, which notes that the top 10 causes of workplace injuries cost U.S. businesses over $1 billion per week. Looking more broadly, Warren K. Brown, president of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), has noted that companies spend about $170 billion a year on costs associated with workplace injuries and illnesses.

OSHA violations, alone, start at $13,494 per incident, and the maximum penalty is ten-fold at $134,927. Then there are the costs to increased workers’ compensation claims, lawsuits, and lost business due to unmet deadlines or damaged reputations. 

Those businesses that proactively put strong workplace health and safety measures in place—and avoid the high costs of health and safety incidents—will be best positioned to invest in delivering the innovative products and services that drive growing market adoption.