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SLC 2018: How Safety Attitude Surveys Can Improve Safety Culture

Safety surveys can help companies better align their workforce management processes while improving safety performance.

We hear a lot of corporate culture, especially when it comes to the establishment of a culture of safety, but what exactly does that mean? As Mike McCarroll, president and CEO of PROSAFE Solutions, pointed out, “There’s a disconnect between how senior management, middle management and shopfloor-level workers perceive a company’s culture.”

Too often, the C-suite has an unrealistic perspective of how their employees view safety, and what’s worse is that workers tend to think their company’s commitment to a safe workplace is a lot less than the corporate mission statement might suggest. “Although the best operational intelligence of a company’s performance is production-level employees,” McCarroll noted, “more often than not they’re not even asked for their input.”

McCarroll was one of the speakers at EHS Today’s Safety Leadership Conference 2018, held earlier this month in Louisville, Ky., along with Chris May, EHS director of CRH Americas Materials, and Howard Mavity, partner with law firm Fisher Phillips. To illustrate the difference between management’s hopes and employees’ actual attitudes, the speakers suggested that companies conduct a safety culture assessment that looks at all components of a company’s safety culture. The goal, McCarroll said, is to plug the disparity gap—the difference between how senior management sees thing and the way workers see things.

May has had quite a bit of experience doing just that in her role at CRH (formerly known as Oldcastle Materials), a supplier of aggregates, cement, asphalt, ready-mixed concrete and paving and construction services. CRH surveys its employees on safety topics every three years—no small task considering the initial survey process involved more than 20,000 employees at 70 CRH companies. What’s more, the survey process is manual, not online.

“Employees are inherently skeptical of online surveys,” May said, “so CRH surveys them in person—written and anonymously—and then sent to a third-party service for compilation.”

Although the safety survey form asks 20 questions, the most germane input, May explained, comes from the requirement that each employee contribute two comments about the state of safety at the company. Also, 20% of the employee population is randomly chosen to participate in focus group sessions that last roughly 90 minutes.

After the entire survey process has been conducted, the results are presented to the full workforce in timely fashion. For instance, the top recommendation from the survey results (61%) is to improve the new hire safety training process as well as refresher training for existing employees. The company also learned that its employees believe supervisors need to be better trained in performance coaching.

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