My discussions with Dr. Dan Petersen about his use of a binary scale revealed that the developers of our Safety Perception Survey noticed this same middle of the road reality in the early stages of their research. Dan’s comment went something like: “We decided that we weren’t interested in the nuances of a 2.8 vs. a 3.2 score. Rather, we wanted to find out if the safety processes were fixed or broken (well or sick).”
As we work with large numbers of customers and 10’s of thousands of surveys some other benefits of the binary answer scale have appeared:
- The binary scale offers a third option; “I don’t know the answer.” This is a third data bank which reflects a lack of knowledge about questions and processes that have been statistically proven to make a difference in safety performance. In turn ‘no response’ answers allow an organization to relatively quickly and inexpensively train in areas of low safety knowledge and understanding
- Hourly employees quickly decide the binary yes – no answer they believe is workplace reality. Managers often struggle with making the yes – no decision because “Sometimes we do this and sometimes we don’t.” The managers often take longer to answer the survey questions because they stop to consider this uncertainty that at its root is an indicator of safety culture weakness; “We are inconsistent.” When the Continuous Improvement teams begin focusing on resolving safety culture weaknesses the hourly abruptness and the manager contemplation both help the teams get to in depth, rigorous solutions to safety culture problems.
- Central tendency survey approaches do not have either of the above strengths.