Monday, September 22, 2014

What now? – Using a survey to improve safety culture

I recently received a request to comment on how an organization could improve their safety culture by focusing on three key safety drivers which were identified in a safety perception survey a local university delivered to their employees.  The results of the survey said their employees scored low on: Safety Importance, Safety Engagement, and Safety Communications at the frontline.  These are topics many organizations struggle with as they get deeper into improving their safety culture and performance results.  Here is my short reply to their inquiry.

  • Safety Importance:  The issue becomes getting safety to have a priority greater than or equal to production demands.  Our teaching in this area is based on the work of Dr. Dan Petersen, renowned safety culture expert, writer and consultant.  His “Six Criteria of Safety Excellence”


  • Top management is visibly committed

  • Middle management is actively involved

  • Front-line supervision is performance-focused

  • Employees are actively participating

  • System is flexible to accommodate the culture

  • Safety system is positively perceived by the workforce

These same six are also truly a foundation for operations and quality performance excellence.  The solution here is about understanding how to develop this kind of engagement across the organization.  The focus is on developing and living a culture of value added safety accountability throughout the organization and how this fits in with quality and operations accountabilities which must also be in place

  • Safety Engagement:  How do people in a workgroup help each other live a safety culture of correct?  For more than a decade Caterpillar has studied, developed and honed a Rapid Improvement Workshop (RIW) process which engages hourly and salaried personnel in a relentless pursuit of zero errors in operations, quality and safety.  The focus on achieving a zero incident safety culture has required the RIW process to be improved and intensified.  This includes hands on training in what it takes to engage a core group of workgroup personnel from throughout the organization in going beyond one-off issue solutions and into upstream process error proofing which delivers downstream metric and safety culture excellence.

  • Safety Communication:  Interpersonal communications that have workgroup personnel and management speaking up about safety issues, learning from the speak up engagement and reinforcing those actions which actively live a safety culture of correct.  This requires a very interactive, hands on learning and practicing of work group safety communication:

    • Speak Up; how to give effective safety feedback in an adult manner  which corrects improper actions and activities

    • Listen Up; how employees process safety feedback and commit, on an individual and personal basis, to improving the weak and dangerous activities which must always be performed correctly and safely

    • Recognize It; the safety communication at the front line needs to go beyond just correcting improper activities.  Organizations that achieve excellence also engage in a coaching model that reinforces what is being done correctly. The concepts and training focus on how to reinforce safety activities which are done correctly by workforce personnel

Does your organization have similar safety culture challenges that can be addressed by the above approach?

The Doc

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