Metrics for Safety Cultural Improvement
Updated: Jul 18
Culture, defined as common practice, plays a crucial role in shaping safety performance. In a previous blog post, we discussed the importance of developing metrics for safety drivers— activities aimed at elevating safety performance. These metrics act as the first level of a balanced scorecard for safety, providing insights into the effectiveness of your safety plan. In this article, we will explore second-level metrics that focus on improving safety culture. By defining culture as shared concepts, perceptions, and competencies among employees, we can identify key areas of improvement and enhance safety outcomes.
Start with Common Definitions of Safety Concepts:
The term "common" holds the key to influencing and aligning safety culture. One way to foster commonality is by establishing shared definitions of basic safety concepts within the organization. For instance, if the definition of safety is limited to "not getting hurt," it can lead to erroneous thinking that any practice not causing harm is automatically safe.
Instead, encourage a common definition of safety that includes: 1) understanding risks, 2) knowing precautions to mitigate those risks, and 3) consistently implementing those precautions. This shared understanding of safety enables employees to enhance their own safety performance and that of their colleagues. Training sessions, safety meetings, and effective communication channels can reinforce common definitions, which can be measured through focus groups, testing, or surveys.
Perceptions are another valuable source for continuous improvement in safety drivers. Understanding how workers perceive the value of safety training, meetings, communication, and leadership can provide insights for enhancing these aspects. Measuring and managing employee perceptions enables adjustments in the quantity, quality, and media used for safety communication. It also helps leaders and supervisors gain perspective on their styles and techniques.
While there are off-the-shelf perception surveys available, it is recommended that organizations develop their own customized surveys. This allows for the use of organization-specific terminology and the ability to measure perceptions about unique programs or processes. Customization ensures that the survey is tailored to the organization's specific needs, rather than relying on generic labels that might lead to misunderstandings.
Assessing Competency Levels:
Measuring employee competency is another crucial aspect of cultural evaluation. This includes assessing job-specific skills for workers, coaching skills for supervisors, and communication, organization, and motivational skills for leaders. Competency levels are key drivers of safety culture, as employees should be expected to excel not only in their job-specific tasks but also in safety-related aspects relevant to their roles.
Evaluating the impact of safety drivers, such as training and safety meetings, on skill development is essential. Do these drivers effectively enhance knowledge retention and application? Do safety communication efforts help prioritize safety and continuously improve performance? Ultimately, effective safety drivers should lead to increased competency levels among employees.
Understanding the Process of Safety Improvement:
Organizations that measure the quantity and quality of their safety drivers, along with the corresponding impact on concepts, perceptions, and competencies, gain a deeper understanding of the safety improvement process. It is crucial to work on your safety plan, ensuring that safety drivers align with and improve the safety culture. When these elements are effective and efficient, they drive improved safety performance.
Developing a strong safety culture requires a focus on metrics that assess cultural improvement. By establishing common definitions, aligning perceptions, and evaluating competency levels, organizations can drive positive changes in safety culture. Customized perception surveys and a comprehensive understanding of the relationships between safety drivers and culture enable organizations to enhance safety performance continually.