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Safety climate and safety culture

Safety climate

Safety climate is the perceived value placed on safety in an organisation at a particular point in time. These perceptions and beliefs can be influenced by the attitudes, values, opinions and actions of other workers in an organisation, and can change with time and circumstance.

How does improving safety climate benefit business?

A positive safety climate improves production, reduces compensation and insurance costs and can also:

  • enhance employee safety knowledge and their motivation to behave safely
  • increase the uptake of safety related policies and programs
  • improve employee perception of more support available from management
  • reduce the perception amongst employees of exposure to a hazardous environment
  • reduce the number of incidents by employees and workgroups.

To find out more please download the Safety culture, climate and leadership factsheet (PDF, 0.22 MB).

Ways to measure safety climate

Safety climate can be measured a number of ways depending on the needs and capacity of an organisation. It can be measured formally using survey tools designed to assess an individual's response to key areas of safety climate. Survey results can be applied across an organisation and there are many tools available online for free that measure safety climate.

For a smaller organisation, safety climate may be measured through staff focus groups, management interviews, and observation of normal operating procedures within an organisation. A best practice approach would use a combination of these methods.

Download Choosing the right safety climate tool for your organisation (PDF, 0.35 MB) to help you choose a survey that is suitable for measuring safety climate in your organisation.

To help you conduct a safety climate survey within your team or organisation download the Getting the most out of your safety climate survey (PDF, 0.36 MB).

Safety culture

Safety culture embodies the value placed on safety and the extent to which people take personal responsibility for safety in an organisation. Safety culture is often described as the 'personality' of an organisation, as it is a shared value of safety. The safety climate is referred to as an organisation's 'mood'.

Ways to measure safety culture

Safety culture is more complex and requires multiple methods of assessment over a long period of time. It is influenced by the safety climate, 'norms', traditions and management procedures in an organisation. A safety culture assessment measures these factors using qualitative (guiding) and quantitative (measureable) data.

Below is an example of a formal safety culture assessment procedure:

  1. Review programs, policies, and relevant documentation.
  2. Communicate with workers about the purpose of the assessment.
  3. Conduct a location walk.
  4. Discuss safety leadership with management and key personnel.
  5. Customise and distribute a safety climate survey, or talk to staff and engage them in safety matters.
  6. Report on actionable items.

While a formal safety culture assessment may not always be suitable for small businesses, it is still important to assess the safety climate by talking to staff and engaging them in safety matters.

Culture maturity models

Culture maturity models are designed to evaluate the quality and standard of an organisations safety culture. They are intended to guide the development of a workplace's safety culture from inception to maturity.

Safety Culture Maturity® Model [1]

The Safety Culture Maturity® Model was developed by the Keil Centre in the UK as a method of calculating what level of cultural 'maturity' an organisation possesses. Through a two-part process, the maturity level of an organisation is first determined by assessing its safety climate, with the focus then shifting to improving the organisation's level of safety culture maturity®.

  • Part A – safety climate assessment examines:
    • management visibility and commitment
    • communication
    • safety vs. productivity
    • learning organisation
    • safety resources
    • participation
    • shared perceptions about safety
    • trust
    • job satisfaction and industrial relations
    • training
  • Part B – improving safety culture maturity®

    Improving safety culture maturity® level takes time. Communicating and engaging with workers is the best way to improve safety culture maturity® levels.

    It should be noted, however, that this model is only applicable to organisations that already use systematically a risk management approach to identify, analyse and control hazards–otherwise improving the maturity of the organisation will not see a significant reduction in injury.

    There are several levels of safety culture maturity®. Each level introduces a new strength to improve on and aims to remove the weaknesses of the previous step.
Maturity levelDescription Actions to improve
Level 1: Emerging Safety is defined as adherence to the regulations. Accidents are seen as unavoidable. Develop management commitment to safety. This includes monetary commitment, and a review of current policies and procedures.
Level 2: Managing Safety is defined as adherence to the rules and regulations, policies and procedures, and engineering controls. Accidents are seen as deviations from the rules, and viewed as preventable. Realise the importance of frontline staff in identifying safety risks. Promote the development of personal responsibility for safety.
Level 3: Involving Frontline workers are willing to work with management to improve the safety of the organisation. Most workers take responsibility for their own safety. Engage all staff to develop cooperation and commitment to improving safety.
Level 4: Cooperating Workers recognise that management decisions can influence safety. Frontline workers accept responsibility for the safety of themselves and others. Develop consistency in safety through policies and procedures, actions and beliefs. Fight complacency.
Level 5: Continuous improvement A core value of the organisation is the prevention of all injuries. The organisation has not had an accident recently and strives for continuing improvement. Strive for continuing improvement by regularly reviewing and refining hazard controls.

Safety culture and climate webinar series

We've developed a series of webinars on the following topics:

  • Introduction to safety culture and climate webinar
  • Safety culture and climate in transport webinar
  • Safety culture and climate in public administration and health and community services
    • Safety culture and climate in public administration and health and community services - case studies
  • Safety culture and climate in construction webinar
  • Conclusion and next steps
  • Additional webinars on safety culture and climate

View the webinars.

[1] Source: Safety Culture Maturity® Model. Copyright The Keil Centre. Prepared by The Keil Centre for the Health and Safety Executive, can be found at Safety Culture Maturity® is a registered trade mark of The Keil Centre Limited.