Safety perception surveys are a critical tool for Health and Safety Managers. Gathering direct feedback on the success of safety policies lays the foundation for ongoing improvement within the business, and can unearth unexpected insights.
The process itself can motivate employees to play an active role in their organisation’s culture of safety, and send a positive message that their contributions are valued from the top down.
In this article, we outline the essential elements of safety perception surveys, best practices in conducting them, and their wider role in risk and safety management.
Safety surveys (also called safety perception surveys, climate surveys, or culture surveys) are a qualitative method of gathering first-hand feedback on the success, adoption and perception of safety policies within the business. They are often used to satisfy the requirements of ISO 45001, which is used in Australian and New Zealand as the standard for safety management.
Safety perception surveys are useful for a number of reasons. They can;
The success of a safety perception survey largely depends on the attitude of the respondents. Employees who resist the process because they don’t see its value, are suspicious of its purpose, or view risk and safety management as a burden to their productivity can easily derail the survey with substandard responses.
For this reason, communicating the value of the process is essential before conducting a safety survey. Health and Safety Managers may seek employee input into the design and execution of the survey, and offer incentives for doing so. Gaining buy-in from respondents is an effective strategy, which is best done in the planning stage of the survey.
Health and Safety Managers may also face resistance from employees who haven’t seen tangible improvements following past surveys. Remember, survey results should be regarded as a launching point for strategic improvements to risk and safety management - not as an end product.
Safety perception surveys are often as simple as a brief questionnaire using the Likert scale (“strongly agree, disagree, neither agree nor disagree, agree, or strongly agree” response options).
The ideal format of your survey will depend on the size of your business, your industry, and the complexity of your risk and safety management system. However, questionnaires using the Likert scale benefit from their brevity and ease of completion.
Your questions will depend on the focus of your survey, whether that be policies and procedures, safety awareness, hazard identification or employee participation in health and safety education and training.
Using the Likert scale, example questions you may ask include;
Templates can be a valuable starting point for designing your safety survey. Get your free copy of our template by clicking below.
If you don’t predict any resistance from employees, you may ask for written responses to gather more in-depth insight.
Safety surveys are a formalised and mostly infrequent occurrence, and therefore should not be the only time employees are engaged in safety discussions. Building a culture of safety within your business is dependant on open conversations, through which employees are encouraged to keep workplace safety as a priority.
Health and Safety Managers should view the gathering of feedback as a continuous process, which isn’t limited to survey periods. Engage in informal conversations with employees, involve them in employee safety inductions and offer incentives for employees who identify inefficiencies within the current system.
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