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.

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