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CLIMATE CHANGE! . How to measure the Safety Climate in your organization. Whitney Martin. Overview. Safety “Culture” vs. “Climate” Leading vs. Lagging Indicators The Who, What, and Why behind doing Safety Perception Surveys Who should consider doing a safety survey? Why should I do one?

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climate change


How to measure the Safety Climate in your organization


  • Safety “Culture” vs. “Climate”
  • Leading vs. Lagging Indicators
  • The Who, What, and Why behind doing Safety Perception Surveys
    • Who should consider doing a safety survey?
    • Why should I do one?
    • What will I get out of it?
  • The Logistics of Doing a Survey
safety culture
Safety “Culture”
  • “Safety Culture” first used in reference to Chernobyl disaster, and later Challenger and Columbia shuttle explosions, King’s Cross underground fire in London, Continental 2574 crash in 1991.
  • “The product of individual and group values, attitudes, beliefs, competencies, and patterns of behavior that determine commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, organization’s health and safety management.”
    • Advisory Committee on Safety in Nuclear Installations (ACSNI)
culture vs climate
“Culture” vs. “Climate”
  • Safety Climate is described as safety culture in action, the tangible outputs of safety culture, a “snapshot” of safety culture
  • Both Exist on a continuum
  • Both are created through messages sent (actions and words) and determine behavior
measuring safety
Measuring Safety
  • What you measure sends a message
  • C-Suite measures-- Percentage Profit, Market Share, Return on Investment, Quality, Productivity, Customer Satisfaction– positive, measures of success
  • Safety Staff measures-- Injuries? Lost time? Measures of failure. Our success results in the lack of an outcome, so we need to find a way to measure the inputs instead (i.e.: safe behavior, safety awareness, safety attitude…)


the problem with lagging indicators
The Problem with Lagging Indicators

Under reporting

Don’t accurately account for “luck”

Don’t reflect potential severity of hazards

Severity of event difficult to quantify

Can result in complacency

Ideally, result in lack of data!

Measure outcomes, not causes

the problem with lagging indicators1
The Problem with Lagging Indicators
  • Requires system failure

“Of course you can use frequency-severity figures to measure your firm’s safety program, as long as you realize that in almost all instances these figures are absolutely worthless.” -- Dan Peterson

  • Need to shift to a proactive, upstream measure
what is a safety perception survey
What is a Safety Perception Survey?

Measures values, beliefs, and attitudes that drive behavior

A proactive measure of safety-- allows you to identify the state of safety within the workplace without having to wait for the system to fail

why conduct a safety perception survey
Why Conduct a Safety Perception Survey?
  • Send a message (internal and external)
  • Create alignment and engagement
  • Add a communication channel
  • Make informed decisions
  • Change behavior
  • Avoid “plateau”
  • Bottom-line impact

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure”

--Peter Drucker

where perception surveys fit
Where Perception Surveys Fit




who should do a survey
Who Should Do a Survey?

Companies who want to:

  • Demonstrate a true commitment to safety (success, not failure)
  • Go beyond compliance
  • Transcend the “plateau”
what will survey results tell me
What Will Survey Results Tell Me?
  • Where you are vs. where you want to be
  • Whether you’re getting better or worse at it
  • If your actions and interventions are
    • Effective (working)
    • Reliable (happening consistently across all areas of the org.)
    • On-target (proportionate to risks)
    • Efficient (not wasting time, dollars, and energy)

“Only when you know why you have hit the target can you truly say you have learnt archery” --Chinese proverb

what can i do with the results
What Can I Do With the Results?
  • Evaluate the impact of programs and activities
  • Make more informed, focused decisions and action plan based on sound information
  • Pinpoint areas of concern where interventions are needed
  • Look at trends over time
  • Facilitate change and improvement
what should i measure
What Should I Measure?
  • Management commitment
  • Supervisor competence
  • Priority of safety
  • Time pressures
  • Policies and Procedures
  • Practices/patters of behavior
  • Communication
  • Training
  • Trust
  • Reward/Repercussion Systems
  • Behaviors outside of work
  • Risk Perception
  • Effectiveness of Safety Committees
  • Investigations
  • Employee Empowerment/ Ownership
  • Environment, PPE, and Systems
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Hazards
  • Employee Wellness
  • Substance Use/Abuse
what should i measure1
What Should I Measure?

1) Organizational Commitment

Extent to which upper management:

  • identifies safety as a core value/guiding principal of the organization
  • demonstrates enduring positive attitude towards safety (even in a pinch)
  • actively promotes safety in a consistent manner across all levels of the organization
  • consistently provides adequate resources and supports development and implantation of safety activities.

Weigmann, Zhang, von Thaden, Gibbons, Sharma

what should i measure2
What Should I Measure?

2) Management Involvement

Extent to which both upper and middle management:

  • get personally involved in critical safety activities within the organization (participation communicates/demonstrates commitment to safety which influences the degree to which employees comply with safety rules/practices)
  • participate in training, meetings, committees, etc.
  • are able to “stay in touch” with risks involved in everyday operations

Weigmann, Zhang, von Thaden, Gibbons, Sharma

what should i measure3
What Should I Measure?

3) Employee Empowerment

Extent to which front line employees

  • understand and accept that they are the last line of defense against errors/accident prevention
  • are motivated to “make a difference” and go beyond the call of duty
  • have a substantial voice in safety decisions
  • hold self and others accountable for actions
  • take pride in safety record.

Weigmann, Zhang, von Thaden, Gibbons, Sharma

what should i measure4
What Should I Measure?

4) Reward Systems

  • Manner in which both safe and unsafe behaviors are evaluated
  • Consistency in which rewards/penalties are doled out
  • Extent to which reward/repercussion system is understood and internalized by employees and therefore drives safe behavior (rather than promoting counter-productive behavior)

Weigmann, Zhang, von Thaden, Gibbons, Sharma

what should i measure5
What Should I Measure?

5) Reporting Systems

  • Key to identifying weaknesses and vulnerabilities before accidents occur
  • Formal reporting system that is actually used comfortably by employees (without fear of reprisal from management or co-workers)
  • Provides formal, valuable, and timely feedback to employees on what was done with their suggestions/input

Weigmann, Zhang, von Thaden, Gibbons, Sharma

how do i measure
How Do I Measure?
  • Qualitative—Employee observations, focus groups discussions, historical information review, case studies.
  • Quantitative—numerically capture using standardized, calibrated instruments such as structured interviews and questionnaires.
  • Combination– Qualitative to follow up and clarify issues found in Quantitative

Characteristics of Questionnaires

  • Questions vs. Statements
  • Open vs. Closed
  • Make Items Short and Clear
  • No Double-Barreled, Double-Negative, Leading, or Bias Items
  • Ensure relevance to the scope of the project
  • Make sure respondents are competent to answer
other survey considerations
Other Survey Considerations

Custom or “Off-the-Shelf”

Reliability and Validity

Appropriateness of Scales

Coding of Written Scales

Inclusion of Interviews

Administration Method


Administration Method

  • Participation Rate
  • Confidentiality/Ability to facilitate trust
  • Administration Options
  • Logistical Issues
  • 3rd Party vs. In-House Administration

Analyzing Results

  • Begin with the End in Mind…
  • Ensure results are meaningful, digestible, and actionable
  • Slicing and Dicing
  • Format should lead to ACTION

Top 10 List– Pitfalls to Avoid

  • 10) Lack of FULL Organizational Commitment
  • 9) Wrong Motives
  • 8) Doesn’t Address the REAL Issues
  • 7) Fail to Recognize that Perception IS Reality!!
  • 6) Bad Timing/Wrong Conditions

Top 10 List– Pitfalls to Avoid

  • 5) Process takes too long
  • 4) Results aren’t communicated completely or effectively
  • 3) Changes aren’t attributed to the survey
  • 2) It’s an EVENT
  • 1) Nothing is done with the results

Whitney Martin 502-742-7411