Safety culture and climate webinar series
On this page:
- 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 construction webinar
- Conclusion and next steps
- Additional webinars on safety culture and climate
Introduction to safety culture and climate webinar
The webinar was presented by Professor De Cieri from Monash University, who discussed her research into work health and safety leading indicators, which involves measurement of safety climate, employee behaviours and activities like safety training.
Download a copy of this film (MP4, 12MB)
Why does Safety Culture matter and what can we do to improve it?
Presented by Jenny Hunter
Welcome to the Safety culture webinar series. My name is Jenny Hunter and I will be your host for this webinar. There is a growing recognition of the powerful influence of culture on safety performance. We know that across industry businesses are all at different stages of their safety journey. We also know that there is still a lot of confusion and uncertainty about safety climate and culture concepts, and exactly how to go about improving them.
This webinar is the first in a series of five specifically designed to increase your knowledge and awareness about safety culture and climate concepts, and provide critical insights to Australian workplace safety culture across different industry sectors. The three industry sectors we're going to focus on through this series include health and community services, transport and construction.
We're also very excited to introduce to you a range of leading researchers and industry operators throughout the series and give you access to evidence based information, products and resources to guide your safety efforts and to promote a safety culture in your own organisation. This webinar series has been brought to you by the Safety Leadership at Work Program, an initiative of the Workplace Health and Safety Queensland Board. We expect this session to take just under one hour and the recording will be posted to the Safety Leadership at Work web page within two weeks from today.
Before we get much further into it I'd like to take some time to tell you a little bit more about myself and our guest speaker today Ms Helen De Cieri. Helen is a Professor at the Monash Business School at Monash University. Helen has over 30 years’ experience in health, safety and management research. Thank you Helen for being with us today.
Now for a little bit more about my background. For some time now but probably not quite as long as Helen I've been working across a range of safety, human resource and psychosocial safety roles. I am fortunate that my current role allows me to bring all these experiences together to lead an exciting program of work to increase the capacity of Queensland businesses to lead safety and improve workplace mental health.
Now let's get started.
There are so many well-known examples of the outcomes of poor safety culture. Think Deep Water Horizon and Pike River. This photo shows the moment that the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded. Even NASA traditionally thought of as a technically brilliant organisation had failed. The Challenger was one of NASA's greatest triumphs. It was the second shuttle to reach space in 1983.
It successfully completed nine milestone missions but on its tenth launch on January 28 1986 the Shuttle exploded 73 seconds after lift-off, killing the seven crew members. A Presidential Commission revealed the technical causes of the accident which was traced to cold weather degrading the seal on the boosters. Additionally, it brought to light cultural problems at NASA that led to a failing to voice all technical problems to the launch decision team.
In an example closer to home, a worker was killed at Blackwater Mine in a vehicle rollover early last year. I had the opportunity to hear directly from a mining executive of his anguish over learning that workers travelling in the vehicle were not wearing their seatbelt at the time of the vehicle accident. He stated that the fatality came as a surprise to him as the company was tracking well on a range of OHS measures including lost time injury frequency rate.
We've shared these two examples to bring to your attention why safety culture matters so much. While it is true that we've come a long way towards improving safety through the implementation of safety management systems still more needs to be done.
It's important that we acknowledge that safety systems are implemented by people. So if those people do not consider safety to be an important work goal or that the safety procedures make the job harder they may not be used as intended.
We also know that even safety leadership at the top is not enough. Safety leadership must be visible at all levels of an organisation and this is one of the hallmarks of a positive safety culture.
In today's session we will introduce the latest research understanding about the nature of safety climate and culture concepts. We'll explain why they are important influences of your organisation's safety performance and provide some practical guidance to help you initiate safety culture change in your workplace.
A clear message from today is that we don't want you to add another procedure to your safety management system. We do want to help you build your knowledge of safety climate and culture and we want to help you feel more confident to go about improving your organisation's safety performance through safety climate and culture initiatives. This webinar has been designed to help us achieve all of these objectives and I'll share more details on the information, products and resources with you towards the end of the session.
Safety climate and culture have existed as concepts since the 1970s and rose to prominence in the 1980s due to several high profile industrial accidents. Since then hundreds of research studies have been done and articles published. Safety culture in particular is now widely accepted by industry. However sometimes it seems like the closer we get to defining and understanding safety climate and culture the further away we actually are. This can be confusing and become a barrier to progressing our safety journey.
Fortunately some consistencies have emerged to help us find our way and what we do know with confidence and drawing on all that research is that safety culture does deliver improved safety performance. There are many research studies which confirm that organisations with positive safety cultures have improved safety performance outcomes.
Secondly scholars and industry professionals all agree that safety culture is hard to measure and that it stays pretty steady over time. The good news is that safety climate is easier to measure and changes more readily. This means we can impact safety climate by how well we manage safety each day. Safety climate is an important measure as part of an overall strategy to improve safety culture maturity.
On the screen now we have an iceberg and I have to apologise. This is a safety webinar so we couldn't get away with at least one slide with an iceberg on it but it really does help to explain these concepts. So please stay with me. To use the iceberg analogy, climate is based primarily on tangibles such as systems, practices, behaviour and the perceptions of these whereas culture is inferred. It's about attitudes, beliefs and norms that form as a result of how the organisation does business and the things that the organisation does to survive and adapt.
Climate has been described as a surface level snapshot of the underlying culture and so it's a partial indicator of a company's cultural health. The way we can change the culture is via the climate. If we change formal parts of the company such as the systems and procedures this is likely to lead to changed behaviours. If implemented well, over time this will start to challenge pre-existing cultural beliefs and assumptions.
Part of making sense of safety climate and culture is to think about how these pieces fit together. It is generally agreed that safety culture has four levels or pieces. The first is the observable and tangible aspects which is the behaviours, the symbols, the posters that you see in the workplace, but these can be misleading if they're the only source of information about safety culture.
Systems are how safety is meant to be and how safety is put in place as a way of formalising the culture, setting expectations about how things should be done and they're generally seen through standards, policies, rules and procedures. Perceptions refer to the experience of safety on a daily basis, particularly around the importance of safety relative to other demands such as production and this perception is the safety climate.
Values and beliefs are very deep assumptions about what the organisation cares about and why things are done in certain ways. Depending on how aligned individual employees are around these values and beliefs determines how strong and consistent the safety culture is. Together all the aspects are considered to be part of how an organisation manages safety. Only by measuring all of these components together can an organisation get an accurate picture of how well it's currently doing in safety.
You might be familiar with some or all of these models that are up on the screen from DuPont and Hudson. Safety culture maturity models use terms such as 'pathological' or 'emerging' for poor performers, right through to 'generative' or 'continually improving' for best performers. Business managers seem to really like undertaking a safety culture maturity assessment as it quickly helps senior leaders to understand the stage or level of maturity of their company's safety culture and performance. But what a safety culture maturity assessment is really about is providing a structured approach for organisations to understand how mature their safety systems are and to develop a plan to keep improving their safety efforts and continue their cultural journey.
In summary culture maturity models are a way of integrating all of the previous components of how safety is managed into one comprehensive framework. Even though culture maturity models may seem different on the surface there are a lot of features that safety maturity models share. The Safety Leadership at Work team is working on a simple three step maturity model that combines all of these separate ways of thinking and at this stage we think about culture maturity in three stages or at three levels.
Stage one is the beginning stage where safety is probably not a strong cultural value and driven mainly by some external need to do it such as avoiding a fine or complying with a contractual obligation. Stage two is more effective for safety performance because it is now a priority. The focus at this stage is embedding a value for safety and formalising it through safety systems. Stage three is the most effective level of maturity for safety and means that safety and production are integrated. Safety simply becomes a natural way of doing business.
A common mistake many businesses make is to miss the assessment of some elements of their safety culture. For example they might be using a climate assessment that doesn't align with their cultural assessment or safety systems tool. This can sometimes lead to a mismatch between data collected and evidence required to properly assess or demonstrate cultural maturity. Making the connection between safety climate, safety management and safety leadership means we diagnose the safety culture more effectively and have more confidence in our overall safety maturity results.
Now that we have the relationship between safety culture and safety climate more clear let's take a closer look at safety climate surveys, an important part of the overall approach to your safety culture journey. In fact the bulk of the research in safety culture to date has been explored through the lens of safety climate which is a very solid evidence base. Here's what we know about safety climate.
It has a consistent bunch of dimensions. For example management safety commitment, perception of safety systems. It both predicts and is predicted by safety incidents like injuries, meaning that how we manage safety events can impact on safety climate in the future. It is dynamic, that is it changes over time and it can be different in terms of how management are perceived versus the supervisor as well as being different from one team to another, and in essence there can be subcultures. It's both influenced by and enabled by leadership behaviour which means that leaders play a big role in establishing a safety climate and sustaining it.
Through the resources that go along with this webinar series we'll be helping you to move this theory into practice and I will share more with you about these resources at the end of the webinar session.
Now let's turn to our expert speaker, Professor Helen De Cieri from Monash University. Helen before we get started I'm sure everyone would like to know a little bit more about you and I've just sort of got a question here I hope you don't mind responding to. How did you find yourself actually working as a safety culture and climate researcher? Can you tell us a little bit more about what you're working on at the moment?
Helen De Cieri:
Sure. Hello Jenny. Hello everyone. I started around 30 years ago as a Psychologist and it was the time when as you mentioned, in the '80s safety culture rose to prominence because there had been a number of very sad incidents related to safety. I was particularly interested in job stress and how work affects our mental health. Over the years I've continued to research in a range of areas of health and safety across industries from mining to healthcare and everything in between and in several countries other than Australia, as well as here. My main interest is in identifying the positive strategies and actions that can be put in place in a work site to prevent injuries and illnesses. I see safety culture and safety climate as really central to this. So I'm happy to be here to discuss my research and what we've learnt about safety culture and safety climate.
So we have learnt quite a lot but somehow all these decades later we're still here talking about safety culture and safety climate.
Well thanks Helen. It's really interesting and I know that Helen will be talking more in detail about her latest research focusing in on health and community services later on in this series. But Helen I believe that you've got some important insights from the work that you've been undertaking to share with us now. So I'll hand over and let you take us through that material.
Helen De Cieri:
Thanks Jenny. My research investigates managers and workers' perceptions, behaviours and attitudes related to issues such as their health and safety in the workplace. If we can identify what people think about their health and safety, for example whether they're willing to speak up about health and safety or whether they feel committed, whether they see safety as a real priority at work, that knowledge can help us to identify practical ways to keep workers safe.
If we know what people really value in their workplace, what really motivates them with regard to safety then that can help to identify interventions to put in place, practical strategies, even small things that can make a big difference with regard to their health and safety.
So I'm really fortunate to work with a group of terrific people at Monash University. We have a multidisciplinary team that investigates a range of issues related to safety culture and safety climate. We know these two concepts are important because the research shows as Jenny's already introduced, that a positive safety climate can lead to reduced health and safety incidents. So to put it in simple terms safety culture and safety climate really help us to answer the question 'What keeps you healthy and safe at work?'
So to think about the background as a starting point we know that the problem is substantial. The cost of work-related injury and illness is substantial in Australia and in other countries around the world. Clearly there is a business case for attending to prevention of health and safety incidents. The cost in human terms and particularly the cost to workers are much higher than even the costs to industry. The costs are enduring over many years if you think about the impact that an injury can have on an individual worker, their co-workers and their family and friends. Of course the patterns of illness and injury will vary across industry. So we see differences between what types of things are major problems in healthcare compared with what we see in construction. But we do know that we need to consider a whole range of things.
So it's not just physical safety, but also psychological safety and concerns around physiology or disease that needs attention. The research shows overall that investing in safety climate and preventive and positive actions in the workplace are really good, sound investments and can lead to a range of positive outcomes with regard to reducing the cost of work-related injury and illness.
So to understand how to prevent injuries and illness we need to kind of go back to the future. We need to look at the underlying causes which include issues related to safety culture and safety climate. So in many workplaces I spend a lot of time going around talking to managers and talking to workers about their health and safety. I particularly see managers, senior managers, board members focusing on the outcomes of health and safety. So they'll be looking at counting lost time injuries or counting the cost of compensation claims. Those are of course important but to manage those we need to understand what's caused them in the first place. Jenny mentioned disasters and for example the Blackwater Mine fatality where understanding the cultural antecedence of a problem can really help to identify ways to prevent future illnesses and injuries from happening. So let's talk about safety culture and safety climate.
First of all we need to know what they are and Jenny's already introduced and really helped me out by introducing those ideas, but in a bit more detail, if you want to know everything you never wanted to know about safety culture and safety climate, there is a lot of research out there to explain these issues. In one project with Dr Trang Vu we did a systematic review finding every definition we could possibly find around the world about safety culture and safety climate, and related constructs. We found more than 100 different definitions being used by regulators, academics, consultants, employers around the world. There are a lot of similarities between them but even with research going back over 30 years there's still no unanimous agreement and no unanimous preferred measurement approach for these either. Our reports by the way will be available and there'll be more information about those at the end.
Now we do know though that there's general agreement about what is safety culture and safety climate in terms of their core elements. So I'll talk a bit about those. Now as Jenny has indicated we do have these two terms. 'Safety culture' usually refers to the enduring and stable values that people have. That's often really hard to measure. Even though we might use the term 'safety culture' we're talking about the underlying values people have and to try to think about how to influence that is quite hard.
The way into that is to look at safety climate. 'Safety climate' if you want to think about the tip of the iceberg, is more often used to describe the more evident or tangible, measurable outputs or aspects of the safety culture. So safety climate is about the evidence of management's commitment to safety or the elements that can be measured in a workplace. It's usually referred to as the employee's perceptions of safety and it can change over time. So for example with a change of CEO or a change of policy we can see changes in the safety climate in the workplace.
Now when we think about those core elements as I mentioned earlier that are generally agreed on as being involved in safety culture and therefore safety climate, we can see that there's been more than 50 different variables or themes that have been included in the way people have approached safety culture. Despite that variation there are some agreed elements that in a positive safety culture you have management behaviour and actions that demonstrate a real commitment to health and safety. So you see managers who don't just talk about health and safety but they really put it in place and their own behaviours are role modelling what they expect employees to be doing. We want to see that not only with the senior managers, but with supervisors, middle level managers – everyone throughout the organisation.
Another important dimension of safety culture is that people believe they have a right to work in a healthy and safe environment. So there are safety systems and procedures in place and they're followed. They're not just a piece of paper that people forget about, they're actually followed which means the third part is important that people need accountability for their health and safety. So we need to have ways of ensuring they've got the equipment, the training and the skills that they need to really work safely in the workplace.
Now as Jenny mentioned there are several different models of health and safety and different models on safety culture. The Safety Leadership at Work model is I think a really clever way of thinking about the different elements that are important in a safety culture. This model is consistent with themes and conclusions of models that we see worldwide that identifies there are several different elements. There's no one single thing that's going to make or break your safety culture. This might seem overwhelming but there does need to be a combination or a bunch of elements that will ensure your safety culture is positive and successful.
So we'll look at what those elements might be and how we'd measure them. How do you know how good your safety culture is in your organisation?
Now as an academic – others might disagree – but as an academic my approach is usually to try and investigate and understand and measure the phenomena that we're interested in so that managers can make informed decisions about how to manage. To paraphrase Peter Drucker, the influential management educator and consultant who's become very well-known through the 20th Century, management is underpinned by measurement. So our research really tries to build an evidence base to inform managers' decisions about which safety interventions would be worth investing in. How do you know how best to direct your efforts to improve safety in a workplace?
So we did some more research. A second project was that we looked all the measures that are around to try to assess safety culture and safety climate in different workplaces. There are hundreds around the world. Over the decades people have developed a whole range of different ways to measure safety climate. They're sometimes called 'measures of safety culture' but usually they're measuring safety climate. They're looking at what can be seen and assessed in a workplace.
We found that there's a whole range of different measures and they vary with regard to their purpose and their intent. If you're looking for a measure on the safety climate to use in your workplace you can inspect the available tools and think about what would work best for you. Some of these measures are targeted towards a particular industry. So their questions ask about specific issues, for example to do with construction. Other measures have a lot of detail but that means they can take quite a long time for people to complete them.
Now when I'm talking about measures typically I'm talking about a set of questions that can be used in a questionnaire or a survey that the workforce would complete and the sum, the total of their responses gives you an idea of the perceptions they have of the safety climate in the workplace.
Now as I said, there are lots of measures and I know it's time consuming for anyone to try and go through them all and figure out what would be suitable. So we've been trying to identify a kind of generic tool or measure that could be used across a range of different industries and could be used as an early indicator. You might want to complement it with other assessments, for example more objective measures like the number of hours of training people do or the number of toolbox meetings where safety is discussed. But we think there are some ways in which you can at least get early indicators of safety climate. So I'll talk a little bit more about that research.
Now again our purpose in doing this research, our whole point is because we think that safety climate will predict safety outcomes. That is there's research that shows a more positive safety climate will result in fewer work health and safety incidents. Understanding the perceptions people have about safety, whether they think management are committed to safety, whether they see safety being a priority in the workplace will influence the way an individual worker behaves, whether they speak up about safety, whether they behave in a safe way, whether they follow the rules, wear their protective equipment and whether they report incidents for example. That in turn will lead to outcomes that are positive for an individual's wellbeing as well as being linked to workplace outcomes. There's evidence that safety climate can impact on outcomes related to safety and productivity. Evidence has been shown across a range of different industries. That's why what we do. It's trying to figure out how best to measure the shared perceptions people have about safety in their workplace.
So one way we've tried to do that is to look at safety climate through leading indicators. Now while researching safety climate we've seen that around the world there's increasing discussion about leading indicators of health and safety. Leading indicators are the positive steps that organisations, that individuals, managers, workers can take to prevent an OHS incident. In other words it's about the resources, the positive resources that are available in the workplace and that have an influence on your performance in health and safety.
So in a large research project over the last four years my team have been researching and testing a simple practical measure that could be an early indicator of safety climate in your workplace. Now this is a set of eight statements that can be used in a questionnaire given to employees or workers and the eight items ask people to indicate for example, 'Is everyone in the workplace committed to health and safety?' Now if you imagine if we asked your workers to rate from one to five whether everyone in your workplace was committed to health and safety, what do you think your rating would be? We also ask questions like 'Do workers have the equipment and resources they need to do their job safely?' Now the total score of those eight items are used as a rating of how the workers perceive the leading indicators in their workplace.
Now leading indicators you might be familiar with. They're often talked about as referring to more objective measures in the workplace such as the hours of training. But recent research in North America and our own research has shown that we can measure leading indicators in the same way as we think about safety climate, that is in terms of the workers' perceptions of the positive actions about safety in the workplace. So our research supported by WorkSafe in Victoria has been with large organisations around Australia to try to test and develop this measure.
So we did a national survey and we used a range of measures to look at health and safety in workplaces. So we had our measure, our eight items asking about leading indicators and we also asked for example about safety leadership. So our idea, our hypothesis was that the better ratings on leading indicators would lead to fewer health and safety incidents, but we also know that as Jenny as mentioned, safety leadership is a really important part. If we have equipment and senior management espousing commitment to safety, that's great but that will be even more enhanced if the direct supervisors of workers are demonstrating safety behaviours. So leaders are important. What your supervisor does enhances the effect of the leading indicators and has an influence on health and safety. That was the hypothesis and then we went out and tested it.
So we did surveys over the last couple of years in six different industries with over 3,500 employees and asked them to answer surveys. We also went back to the workplaces about three months later and collected the health and safety records about how many lost time injuries and so on has been reported, experienced in that workplace.
Now our key results from those studies, from the surveys, go into quite a lot of detail. I'm just giving you a couple of examples of them here. We found strong support for our measure of leading indicators. We found that a higher score on those eight items about leading indicators was significantly associated with fewer injuries and illnesses. In other words where the workers saw that there was more attention being paid to leading indicators, more commitment to health and safety, their own experience of health and safety and three months later the injuries and illnesses recorded in the organisation were fewer. So there was better performance of health and safety. In workplaces where workers gave a really lower score we saw many more incidents of illness or injury.
We also looked at the influence of leaders and we found that in workplaces where middle managers and supervisors were demonstrating safety the outcomes are better. So we did show that the manager's behaviour really enhances the effect of the positive leading indicators. In other words it really plays an important role in the safety climate of a workplace.
Our research is as I said, consistent with research that's been done around the world and there's been a meta-analysis which is a way of doing a very complex statistical overview of the research findings. Clarke's meta-analysis showed that safety climate does improve OHS performance and safety leadership plays a key role in that, in improving the safety behaviour of employees and reducing work-related injuries and illnesses.
So overall what are the take home points? Well our research has produced several important insights. We've learnt a lot and I think we can offer some really practical advice for people in workplaces. We know that it is possible to measure leading indicators as a way of trying to assess the safety climate in a workplace. We know that leading indicators can be measured across different industries. Our eight item tool can be used as an initial kind of measure. You might want to use it with other measures as well - I know there are lots of measures out there - and you might want to have more specific measures that suit your workplace. But it is possible to measure leading indicators and therefore safety climate.
We know that measuring safety culture is difficult and safety climate is much more accessible. Also as a researcher who does this for a living, I'd say select the tools or the measures that are reliable and valid and suited to your purpose. Sometimes people say 'Well that looks good. We'll use that' but really understanding what the tool measures and how it could be suited to your workplace will help you to get a better outcome, to get a better understanding of your own worksite. Sometimes it needs to really be considered in the context of what your workers see as important and what really is the key issue in your workplace.
We know that safety leadership plays a key role and enhances the safety climate, improves safety behaviour and reduces work-related injuries. So giving attention to your supervisors and middle level managers, helping them to have the skills and training and knowledge that they need so that they've got the capacity to support your leading indicators so that your leading indicators are not going to be undermined by the pressure of deadlines or workloads which often is what we see.
We know that safety climate really does lead to improved safety outcomes and our research is one example of ways in which organisations can try to get a measure of what you're doing. Then based on that really start to plan what sort of interventions or strategies or programs or initiatives, whatever you want to call them, could make a difference in your workplace.
So I hope that's useful and I'm very happy to answer any questions or discuss it further, but for now I think it's back to Jenny.
Helen thank you very much. I found that presentation very clear and I think it's exciting, the work that you're doing on the eight item OHS leading indicator tool is very interesting. I know that our information and resources we'll send out later will give the participants of today's webinar some links to that research and other materials.
I also think that Helen before we do open up the floor to questions I imagine that over the course of your research through interacting with different organisations you would have probably seen some pretty interesting things that people listening today could learn from. So I was just hoping that based on your experiences if you could talk a little bit about what you've seen out in workplaces has been done really well when it comes to safety climate and culture?
Helen De Cieri:
Sure. Well it's been really interesting. We spend a lot of time visiting different workplaces and you see often things that look good in one work site often are based on quite small ideas but they have a big impact.
So one of my favourite examples is we were visiting a mine site and we were there to survey the workforce. The day before we arrived an incident had happened. Somebody was injured. The person was taken to hospital and was okay. But when we arrived the whole worksite was kind of buzzing about what had happened. The other workers had stopped work and they were re-enacting the incident in a safe way. They were using their smartphones to record it then to try and figure out what had gone wrong. This was just the guy's colleagues were trying to figure out what could possibly have happened that led to his injury.
What was fascinating to me was they were trying to figure out what could be done to prevent anything like that happening in the future. There were open discussions about it. There was no kind of blaming and 'He must have done the wrong thing.' There was really a positive encouragement from management and to me that was very impressive. I'm not sure that I'd see that in all workplaces but that was one way in which people were clearly used to trying to solve issues as they arose and put in place preventive measures for the future. So for me that's an example of what a good safety culture or safety climate would look like.
Okay. That's really interesting. Can I flip it around now and maybe ask if you could reflect again on things that you've seen and maybe share with people listening today a mistake or an oversight that you've seen organisations make in this area?
Helen De Cieri:
Yes. Sadly all too often we see, well mistakes or areas where people didn't have the knowledge they really needed to effectively manage health and safety. So it's not always with disastrous outcomes but particularly where we see managers ignoring the warning signals, failing to listen to advice from people who are trying to speak up about health and safety. That can really erode the commitment and the confidence people have in health and safety in their workplace.
So one of the most frustrating things I see is where workers will say 'Look, the health and safety guy is terrific and the senior managers talk about safety. They get it but my immediate supervisor keeps pushing the deadlines. We've got this workload. We've got a production schedule.' That really means safety has a lower priority. So there's a mismatch between what we should be doing and what is espoused and what really happens.
Other mistakes or problems that I see are where they try to hide the problem. So for example where we've seen incident report forms locked away in the manager's office so that they just couldn't be reported. That doesn't mean you've got no incidents. It just means that you're not letting people speak up. A really simple thing, but making sure people have access to reporting can help you to learn what's going on so you can improve the safety climate.
In another organisation senior managers ignoring a fire drill because their work was so important they couldn't possibly interrupt it to go down and stand in the evacuation point with everyone else. That sends a really bad message to other people in the workplace. Actions like these can send a strong unintended message and speak volumes to employees about a lack of commitment to safety.
So there's some common areas there we know where we see mistakes happening with regard to safety culture and climate.
Well thank you Helen for sharing those insights and observations. I'd actually like to open it up now for the audience to share any questions or make any comments as a reflection on what we've shared with you today.
I'll just give a moment for people to send those through.
We've got one question that's come in and the request has been could we provide any further advice about how to select an appropriate survey climate tool. A convenient question for us because we actually have as part of the resource kit, just a guide to help people determine how to select an appropriate tool for their workplace and it leads you through a couple of questions and helps you to sort out what's important in the selection of your tool for the particular circumstances of your organisation and where you're at in your safety culture journey. So thank you for that question.
We have others coming in. Helen this one might be more for you. The question is around top five positive performance measures. The request is 'Have you got any guidance about the top five positive performance measures because we're starting to drown in OHS reporting?' was the person's observation.
Helen De Cieri:
Yes. I do know that feeling. We know that there are some broad general areas that are important. One is the management commitment and by that I mean management commitment that is echoed through the organisation. So how is that demonstrated in your workplace? You might ask your employees in a questionnaire, for example the annual employee attitude survey. You could include measures about health and safety and ask 'How committed do you see management to work health and safety in your workplace?' Or you might have more objectives measures of that. 'Do you see safety on the agenda at every meeting?', 'Do you see health and safety being addressed?', 'Are people held accountable for health and safety?' But a measure of management commitment is an important positive indicator.
Another one is 'Are people involved in the discussions about health and safety?' So employee participation in the decisions that are made about health and safety. We know from reams of research that where people are involved in the decisions whether it's about safety or anything else, they're much more likely to be committed to the solutions. So employee buy-in or employee involvement is really important - employee consultation, whatever it's called in your organisation.
A third area is around the reporting or auditing of health and safety. An important indicator is whether people see that there are investigations being made and actions being taken. I think one of the things that makes people really cynical in their workplace is where they say 'Well I fill in these questionnaires', or 'I do everything safely but I don't see any action being taken in the organisation.' It's pretty natural for people to want to know that there are actions, whether they're audits or reports or accountabilities for health and safety in the workplace.
There's my top three if you like. A fourth one I'd say would be whether people have the equipment for training – the resources available. You could have great policies in place but if someone doesn't have the basic equipment they need and that might be the teacher having an appropriate chair in this classroom so he or she can sit in a good ergonomic way, or it might be the person having adequate rest breaks. So those – I've come up with four and I'm conscious of time. I could keep going on forever and just drown you in measures, but there I suppose are my top four.
Helen I've just got another great question that's come in. It's a good one. I'm emailing it through to you. Just for the listeners Helen's actually dialled in remotely. This question has come through and it says 'A suitable measure of safety performance is currently being hotly debated with a strong move away from lost time injury frequency rate. How can we conclude that a positive safety climate improves safety performance if we are yet to agree how to measure safety performance?'
Helen De Cieri:
That is a great question and I think that it's all part of the discussion. I don't see it as a debate really. I think we do need to move away from a heavy focus on LTIFR. Everyone knows that there's different ways of measuring it and you can slice and dice it a number of different ways. What I'd really like to think about is using simple measures to start conversations about health and safety. So I'd really hate it if we just replaced LTIFR scores with some other score. What I'd really like to replace it with is an overall approach to understanding that there's a bunch of things we need to do to pay attention to and prevent injuries and illnesses from happening. We should be looking at a range of performance indicators. It’s not just lost time injuries.
Sharon O'Neil at Macquarie University has done some very interesting work with Safe Work Australia looking at these kinds of issues and so I think we are down the path of thinking about how we can measure these things. It's taken us 30 years to get this far, so it won't be solved overnight. But I think if we can at least think about it as not just focusing on one number like LTIFR but thinking about it as a range of issues and conversations to start people saying 'How safe do you feel in your workplace?' and 'What keeps you safe in your workplace?' I don't know if that really answers your question. We probably need another couple of hours to really get into that.
We've had a couple of really good questions come in while you were talking Helen but I am aware of the time and I did promise everyone we would get to the end of this session within the hour. So what we will do is we will answer those questions and follow that up as part of the posting of the webinar resources. That will all go up within two weeks of today's webinar. I just want to take a moment to wrap up if I may.
Over the course of this webinar today we've actually achieved a few important goals. We've highlighted the importance of considering safety culture and climate in organisational safety management and we've clarified the landscape of safety culture and climate, and honed in on the consistent research findings. What we hope to do by sharing that with you is to increase your confidence about the role that safety climate and culture can play in improving your safety performance in your organisation.
We heard from Helen's research that taking action to improve safety climate and culture is the next logical step.
So to help you take action we've developed a few resources and the first of these is an article which is designed to help you consolidate the knowledge you've gained today about safety climate and culture concepts and to be able to share it with other people in your company. So that will come through on an email link following this webinar.
The second resource that we've developed is a guide to help you select a safety climate survey that fits your needs. There's actually no one size that fits all solution here. So in this guide you will get a tool that steps through the criteria to know whether the survey that you're considering is valid, reliable and appropriate to your setting.
Lastly we've developed a guide which spells out a practical process to follow should you choose to conduct a safety climate survey in your organisation. So having a structured process is very important because it underpins the whole data collection process. If members of a workplace don't feel that their privacy is being maintained for example, the data that they provide could be misleading. So we've honed out what are the important aspects of administration for climate surveys to make sure that you can really trust the results that you're bringing in.
We've combined all of these products into links into one email which will come out to you with some key insights from Helen's research. Together these climate resources should be a practical guide for you as you start to think about how you could measure and improve safety at your company. Or if you're already doing this you might just find some useful tips to make your approach even better.
We hope you enjoyed today's webinar. This webinar has been part of our Safety Leadership at Work Program which aims to develop safety leadership capacity, improve safety culture and reduce work-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities.
The Safety Leadership at Work Program recognises that safety leaders do develop over time by learning from others and it aims to give you access to thought leaders and industry experts and encourage active participation through sharing of experiences.
We'd actually love to hear about your safety culture journey or challenges. So please email our inbox at email@example.com.
Just before we finish up I'd like to remind you that we have further webinars coming up in this series. The next webinar focuses on the transportation industry and our guest speaker will be Dr Sharon Newman and an industry speaker will join us. This webinar will be held on the 3rd of May.
Don't forget we have two more industry specific sessions – one on health and community services and the other on construction. Our final session will bring all these threads together and will feature Professor Andrew Neill and two industry speakers who will share their safety culture maturity journeys with us. Recordings and resources will be made available following the webinars via the SLaW website.
There's just one last thing of course before we sign off and that is that after this webinar we will ask you to complete a very short feedback survey. What this is for is to help us make sure that we continue to run events that fit your needs.
Thank you for joining us and we look forward to seeing you at our next webinar.
[End of Transcript]
Safety culture and climate in transport webinar
The webinar was presented by Dr Sharon Newman of Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC). Dr Newman's research explores the role of safety culture and climate on driver behaviours.
Download a copy of this film (MP4, 10MB)
Transportation – A unique industry with unique needs
Safety Culture & Climate Webinar Series
Presented by Dr Sharon Newnam, Organisational Psychologist and Annastasia Denigan, Head of OH&S and Compliance at DGL Pty Ltd (Aust)
Good afternoon everyone. My name's Tristan Casey. I'm a Principal Advisor with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. I'll be your host today. Thanks so much for your patience. We're just getting our technology sorted over here but we're all good to go now.
So welcome to those of you that are joining us for the first time. This is our second webinar in a series of five. If you joined us for the first one, the introductory section, I'm sure you walked away with some of the foundational content and today we're going to build on that because we're focusing now on the transportation industry. We've got some great speakers lined up, a researcher and also someone from industry to share some insights with you and just take that learning to the next step.
So the thing about these webinars, in fact with culture and climate in general is that there's a lot of uncertainty out there, a lot of confusion and ambiguity about what those things mean and this really was hit home for me last week when we attended a symposium down in Melbourne. We had leading academics there telling us that even they haven't completely sorted out those concepts. So it's no wonder that people from industry, you might struggle to understand those things or how to put them into practice. Our real objective with these webinars is to start to build that knowledge and help you do that application.
So in terms of the next webinars that are coming up, today obviously we're focusing on transportation but we've got a couple more coming up over the next few weeks. The next one will be with health and community services followed by construction and the final one will be a wrap-up session where we bring that all together and start to look towards more practical application and how do we actually start to measure and improve our safety culture and climate.
I just need to mention that the webinar series is brought to you by the Safety Leadership at Work Program or SLAW Program of which I'm a part of and helping to further that Program's goals. That's an initiative of the Workplace Health and Safety Queensland Board.
So we'll take about an hour today, hopefully a little bit less so you can get back to your tasks. The recording will be posted on the SLAW website in a few weeks along with the resources. So just stay tuned for those. So before we get too much further into it I just thought I'd spend a moment to introduce our speakers and also myself.
So our academic expert today is Dr Sharon Newnam. She's an Organisational Psychologist and she's got over 12 years' research experience in transport with a specific focus on that road safety aspect. So Sharon's from Monash Uni at the Accident Research Centre there and she's been exploring the role of culture and climate in a safety specific perspective on driver behaviours. So really looking forward to some of the emerging research that Sharon's going to be sharing with us today. Thanks for coming along.
Also joining us is Annastasia Denigan. So she's Head of OHS and Compliance at DGL. She joined DGL in 2012 and has spent over 15 years in different safety related and compliance related roles in the transportation industry. So at DGL Annastasia focuses on a compliance aspect, making sure that they're complying with heavy vehicle legislation and also that the company maintains its strong safety commitment. Annastasia is very busy. She represents DGL on a lot of different councils, committees and associations. So two very expert speakers and we hope that they can share their insights a little bit later.
So regarding myself just quickly, I'm an Organisational Psychologist like Sharon. I guess my interest area is definitely in safety culture and climate. I've been consulting in that space for a few years now before joining Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and you'll probably hear a bit more from me if all goes well over the next few webinars. So I look forward to continuing the conversation.
Okay. So with all that background out the way let's jump into the actual topic at hand today. So you should see some pictures pop up there of unfortunate disasters that have occurred. The thing about all these is they have occurred in Queensland since the start of this year unfortunately. So it's a real signal to us that we need to do some more work in this area, particularly around the safety culture and climate that are representing perhaps a new avenue to improved safety in the transportation industry. Now all of these incidents are probably still under investigation but one of the things we might conclude from them is that they're likely things we could have done differently at maybe a driver level and certainly at an organisational level to avoid some of those incidents. That's what we're going to start unpacking today is how does culture and climate – what does it look like in the transportation industry and how can we start to maybe identify those critical factors, those cultural influences that may contribute to some of these incidents.
So I'm keen to hear from everyone here before we delve too much into the content. You might see a poll pop up on the right hand side of your screen there. We'd just be interested to hear your perspective. So of all these different I guess at risk behaviours that might contribute to incidents, which one of these do you think may be most influenced by workplace culture in the transportation industry?
So you can go ahead now and just pick an answer there. As you're doing that I can tell you a little bit about the context of the choices here. So if you're curious to learn a little bit more after today I highly recommend looking up a fellow by the name of Jason Edwards. He's out at Queensland University of Technology. He did a really in-depth study of safety culture in the transportation industry and he's come up with some great insights and this is derived from his work there.
All right, so we might just collate the data there and have a look at what everyone's said in terms of those behaviours. Shouldn't be too much longer.
Okay. Great. So we can see 'all of the above' and that's exactly I guess, the answer that we were driving towards. It was not so much a trick question but all those behaviours have cultural underpinnings to them and Jason's research really identified some of those cultural themes that really predict these at risk behaviours. Now I guess it's one thing to sort of say that behaviour is an issue but we need to remember that behaviour occurs in a context, in the context of an organisation. That’s really the flavour that we'll put forth today is taking that step back and looking more broadly about how the team and how the organisation and of course even the industry itself can start to contribute different cultural attitudes or beliefs that promote certain types of maybe at risk behaviour if they're not managed effectively.
So you'll see some statistics pop up on the screen there and I won't go into those too much because we've probably seen a lot of statistics from the industry but just to highlight a couple that really resonated for me. So the one around 28 claims per day with one or more weeks off work. That hits home fairly hard in terms of the impact of safety incidents in the transportation industry as well as the upwards trend in the hospitalisation rates. So there has been some great work in transportation if you look at the Safe Work Australia website. Those figures have been trending downwards but we are starting to see a plateau and in some cases with these hospitalisations specifically, an upwards trend in terms of that figure. So there's something clearly going on there that we need to start digging down to and having a look at.
So as I mentioned before behaviour is typically one of the things that investigations highlight or focus on as being the core issue and then we need to recognise that that worker behaviour is really just I guess the end of a really long, pointy stick. There's a lot of different branches that come off that twig, a lot of things that sort of fan out into the organisation and the different things that they're doing to manage safety. So what we need to do and one of the objectives of today is to start to unpack and understand safety culture and climate. What do they look like when they're applied to the transportation context? How do they actually drive driver behaviour and how do they affect the way that people go about their jobs? Importantly, how do we measure them and also how do we improve that safety culture? So these are some of the things we'll start to introduce today.
So thinking about those statistics, you know, you might sort of think 'Well what sort of action has been taking place? What have government bodies been doing already in this space?' and there has been some stuff. So over in the US they're probably one of the first I guess, developed nations to really tackle this culture issue in transportation. If anyone's familiar with the NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Bureau, they're an independent investigator that's set up to look into transportation incidents and start to uncover what actually went wrong in that situation. So they held an important forum, sort of a landmark event that focused specifically on safety culture in transportation. They really set the scene and the momentum moving forward for other countries, other regulators to start taking notice of this.
Now a bit closer to home if you go to the Department of Transport and Main Roads website and look up their strategy area you'll see that they've recently finalised their 2016-18 plan there and they really take a cultural focus. So there's things in there like making changes to the values and beliefs about safety, tackling different sort of behaviours that have cultural underpinnings like fatigue and vehicle roadworthiness. So there's definitely some initiative and action happening within Queensland itself.
So for the fatigue specifically, that's one of the major ones that does come up with transportation a lot, we know that from research there's a lot of evidence to suggest that external factors like culture do impact on things like how drivers – what they pay attention to. You know, fatigue can be something that really impacts their driving behaviour. Relatedly in the industry itself, so there's a lot of cultural values around doing the job well, delivering on time and making sure that the customer gets their goods, you know, really admirable ways of going about work but in some situations that can actually start to create some safety risks as well.
Now the resounding I guess, conclusion from all this work is that with safety culture particularly, we need to learn a bit more about how it applies to transportation to start making a more concerted difference and pushing those incident rates further down.
There are some unique challenges with transportation specifically. So the context of that industry, there's very specific things that go on which do play out in the form of culture. One of the main themes would be around this idea of the lone worker or the very solitary driver maybe disconnected from his organisation and sort of working long hours on his own or her own. This obviously has some implications for safety culture because you know, with the, I guess difficulties of maintaining that communication and having supervision over that individual, that can start to lead to cultures that may be a little bit weaker or different attitudes that are more driven by maybe the employees rather than the organisation. There's also less chances for people to share and talk about safety, hence that safety culture could be weaker over time.
There's also a number of I guess, job specific factors that could play out in terms of making a safety culture even more important in transportation. So we know things like the dynamic nature of the work, things changing at very unexpected times or with short notice. Things like scheduling. So when the jobs don't quite go to plan we have to readjust and sort of do things in a different way which could be more or less safe. Things like leadership as well. So the different styles. Whether the supervisor is perhaps more interested in the production targets or you know, balances that with the concern for safety. Things that are to do with the system that the driver operates within as well, remuneration schemes and ways of compensating drivers can lead to some at risk behaviours at times if they're not managed well, as well as this complex supply chain relationship. What you might have is many different organisations, different safety climates, different safety cultures, different leaders with those underpinning values for safety that may differ. So this idea of a very complicated yet related environment that drivers work within.
Now despite all this uncertainty the research to date has been productive and there's a few things that we're confident about, things that we can sort of say 'Yes, these things are relevant for transportation', and this is what we'll build on with Sharon's presentation momentarily. Some of the things that we do know from the research done to date is that safety culture and climate, they are relevant. They do exist in the transportation industry. They might look a bit different to other industries but they're certainly there and do have an impact on behaviour.
The second thing is that within transportation specifically, having a positive safety climate is going to encourage safer driving behaviours and better safety outcomes. So we've seen some really great stuff being done to date that looks at the impact of safety climate on those antecedent events like hard braking, erratic driving and violations. So continuing this line of work will be very helpful.
The third thing is that, and I've mentioned this before is that it can be difficult to maintain that strong and positive safety climate and culture. You have lots of those different I guess, work characteristics - people being away from the headquarters, limited opportunities to talk to each other about safety which creates opportunities for different perceptions to form and different values and different attitudes about safety.
The last thing is the importance of leadership and that's a critical underpinning of our Safety Leadership at Work Program is acknowledging the fact that leaders, whether they be informal or formal, actually have an impact on the culture and hence the safety performance.
Okay. So before we move to Sharon just to remind you what we're achieving today, it's important for transportation to take notice of that safety climate and culture research that's coming out and figure out to apply that to their industry to help achieve their safety goals. What we're aiming to do with this webinar series is it's more about the knowledge component and the awareness component. So helping you to feel more confident knowing what safety culture and climate are and then having the confidence to maybe take some action about that in the future.
So as I mentioned we'll be giving you some tools and resources, some different products that you can use straight away and they'll be up on the website in the immediate term.
Okay. So let's turn now to our first speaker Dr Sharon Newnam from Monash University. Sharon before we get started on the presentation I'm sure people are probably a bit curious about you as a researcher and I'm just wondering if you could answer the question, so how did you find yourself working as a transportation specific safety researcher?
Hi Tristan. Thanks for having me along here today. I came into the field I suppose very early in my research career. Actually it's a really hard question to answer because I just kind of fell into the field. I was very interested in organisational psychology and there was work around this workplace road safety yet I think workplace road safety seemed to be dealt with from more of a road safety perspective. So more of that safe systems approach and I thought 'Well there's people that are actually driving in an organisation. So aren't there organisational factors there that we should be considering outside of that safe systems approach?' So safe systems doesn't actually consider the organisation. So that's how I became interested in it because I thought 'We need to be able to build on the existing research in this field to look at workplace road safety as a separate entity to road safety and look at driving behaviour.' Of course it's going to be similar across those settings that there are unique factors that are actually influencing workplace road safety or driving behaviour and the behaviours themselves. There's more relevant behaviours within this setting than others. So I suppose that's what brought me into the field.
Great. Thanks for sharing Sharon. I think this idea or theme of integrating lots of separate, you know, streams of safety management research is a good one and your work there is going to really help move things forward. Okay. So I might just hand it over to you then Sharon. You can take us through your research and we'll have time at the end for some Q&A and some commentary. So yeah, over to you.
Okay. Thanks very much. All right, I'll continue with the presentation if I can – here we are. Sorry. We'll go to the next slide.
Just a bit of a comical slide to start off with. I think it's generally underestimated the complexity of driving for work purposes. Not only are you thinking about your work-related task, but you're also thinking about things that are happening in your personal life, the pressures that you're under at that particular time, scheduling in eating times for example. So as much as this is comical it does represent the true extent of the situation and the different hazards that are identified within this field.
I won't go through to the extent of the problem. I'm just presenting a few statistics there and Tristan presented a slide at the start as well. It's not only heavy vehicles that need to be taken into account here, but it's the light vehicle fleets. So we're talking about people where driving is considered secondary to their primary job task. I think community nursing is a fantastic example of that. So these people, they consider their primary job task to go out to care for people in the community and to get to that client they have to drive. So the driving is often not considered to be a part of their work role tasks. I think in that, there's a lot of problems because there's so much risk involved in the actual driving task and that needs to be prioritised within the working schedule of those individuals. So I think it needs to be taken into account that light vehicle drivers represent a big problem in terms of workplace safety and they need to be considered important within both data collection exercises and safety generally on the road from a broader road safety perspective.
Tristan actually mentioned a couple of challenges and I think that's really great that they are being recognised from a regulator's perspective because I think this is one of the challenges that we face in this field, that this whole concept of the remote worker, so that person that works outside the physical boundaries of the organisation. So my past research has established that a culture actually exists within the setting but the question is how is it actually created because a lot of the research typically says the culture is created by the safety practices and the beliefs of the supervisors and senior management within an organisation. So when a person works outside the physical boundaries of the organisation, how is the concept of culture created?
So I think that needs to be acknowledged to start off with so you can actually identify relevant and targeted interventions. So some of those managerial challenges, that visibility. So how can you monitor the behaviour in the absence of, in vehicle telemetry of course, the collection of objective information, why that's so important. Feedback and goal setting are two of the most powerful incentives in the workplace. So you take the ability to be able to objectively monitor the behaviour, give time for feedback. Then you actually see the end result of that being that the individual is unable to actually modify their behaviour in the future to align with the feedback that they received. So there is challenges in terms of creating that culture and changing behaviour in this setting. Although it's a challenge it definitely is – we're able to do it and I'll show you a couple of extensions later in this slide.
Just the first point I put up there too, in this area the current interventions are typically focused at the individual level. So the approach in organisations is they think 'Okay. When a crash happens let's just blame the driver for that crash and let's not think beyond the driver.' Think of all the managerial practices such as scheduling practices or the policies and procedures that are set by senior level management. I think safety in this setting needs to be conceptualised using a system's approach. So it's not only the individual driver. It's the road environment, the weather, it's the organisation, it's management, it's regulators and it's government. All of these factors need to be identified when actually investigating a crash to be able to move forward in terms of identifying relevant and targeted interventions.
I did a nice study a couple of years ago now looking at identifying factors contributing to crashes in 27 NTSB crash reports in the US and again, it identified the whole concept of 'This is a system's issue.' So there's factors that contributed to the crash that go beyond the driver, that they go to all different levels within the system including what I was saying before, the government regulators, companies, management and even environment and road conditions. So all of these factors need to be considered.
So what actually is organisational safety culture within this concept, within this workplace setting? It's a very different concept because if you look at the traditional measures of safety culture, it's all about the things, the tangible things that you can see such as the worker's perceptions of the practices of supervisor, more of those tangible things. So when you're talking about a person that works remotely, how did this whole concept of culture get created? I think some of the multiple definitions that you have in terms of safety culture, they're all related to these perceptions of the value and priority given to safety. In recent research it's been established that this perception actually exists at a group and an organisational level. What it actually means is that there's practices that are happening in terms of the practices of supervisors and senior level management which are actually creating that culture.
So what that actually means in practice is that we can actually, if we modify the behaviour of the safety management skills of supervisors for example we can actually change that cultural perception at the driver level. So I think this whole concept - multilevel concept of culture is really important to be able to understand because it has such a big impact on the types of interventions that are going to be relevant within this setting. So from this perspective we can just look at it as being a psychological construct to start off with…
…and then look at all the different sub-dimensions what this means. So people actually in the past literature looked at things like management values, work pressure, commitment, safety policies and practices. I think basically the essence of all of this is, is that it's people's perceptions of the value for concern or the priority given to concern for health and wellbeing of the organisation. So if senior level management actually are committed to safety, if they have policies and procedures in place it's perceived at the driver level as the organisation cares for a person's health and wellbeing.
I think this is a relatively easily construct to understand. Rather than trying to understand all these different sub-dimensions of what a safety culture is, let's just look at the essence of what we're actually trying to get at.
To me that really is concern for worker health and wellbeing. That's what I've based a lot of my research on is trying to improve that perception of concern for worker health and wellbeing across an organisation in an effort to improve those climate perceptions. Much of that is through the process of communication itself. So regardless if a person works within the physical boundaries of the organisation or outside, communication still exists. So this is a common element or denominator across all the different organisational concepts. So communication plays a really strong role in organisations and it's a relatively easy concept. The whole concept of safety culture has been bandied around for the last 40 years now. So I think it's really interesting when you actually think about how many papers have been written in this area and what I'm trying to say now is it just comes down to one simple concept and that's communicating well and communicating a concern for worker health and wellbeing. So I hope I'm not upsetting the academic community by trying to advocate such a simple approach to what has become such a complex problem. Or not a problem, but a concept.
So my approach to safety culture within the transportation industry – I take very much that systems approach. Now this systems approach as this model indicates here is very much just focused within the organisation itself. So it's really looking at the role of not only the workers but line management and senior level management. In particular looking at the worker level you've got the safety capabilities or drivers. You've got their perceptions of safety, their attitudes, all the individual dispositions. You've got their driving behaviour as well. All of these things are actually influenced by the safety management skills of line management. This is an area that safety management skills in line management that has been really overlooked and I think that's because there's this perception of 'If a crash happens let's blame the driver', where there's very little recognition given to the role that supervisors play in the safety management of drivers. So that's where a lot of my research has focused on recently is really trying to develop the skills of supervisors, identify what those skills are, develop them and then be able to help them to manage the risks within an organisational context.
So at the senior management level I think this is a really interesting area because there are many senior managers, they go into the exercise of developing these policies and procedural documents. Often times when I talk to organisation about these documents it's something that sits on a shelf and generally gathers dust. It's not something that's been developed in consultation with employees which means that there's very little translation of what the safety capabilities are and the role of supervisors and the safety management of those drivers within these policies and procedural documents. So this knowledge translation is so important in being able to develop relevant and context specific policies and procedures. So all of these systems I think play a really strong role in developing a program, a safety program within an organisation that is actually going to be relevant and effective.
So I'm going to start from at the driver level. I've developed two programs in particular and these programs, one of them being 'challenging drivers key salient beliefs' associated with unsafe driving behaviour. So I'll go through some of the results that I found from this program. Again based on the concept of promoting concern for health and wellbeing, empowering drivers and giving them feedback on driving behaviours so they're able to be able to set goals to improve their future driving behaviour.
So my Driver Development Program, it's a two-stage approach. First of all there's a research approach. Being actually able to understand the context of your organisation is so critically important and this is something that organisations can do on their own. You don't need a program to be able to do this but to understand the safety capabilities or drivers and the perceptions of supervisors in the safety or their roles in the safety management of drivers is so critically important. These can be done by surveys through interviews and focus groups. The kind of questions can be very simple too but it really is getting down to understanding your employees within your organisation. So this organisational climate survey goes through a number of issues or factors such as looking at individual disposition, perceptions of safety and different types of driving behaviours.
The behaviour modification part of this program, I use group-based discussions. So getting drivers in a group to be able to discuss the issues relevant to safety I think is so important. Being able to create that whole communities of practice approach. To actually hear about the experience of other people, learn from those experiences is so important being able to modify future behaviour and how you can actually do that is through again, this magical concept of feedback. So feedback is just so critically important and it's really quite a positive reinforcement as well. So the information that I get from the organisation climate survey, I present that information in the first half of the session of this group-based session to drivers. So basically giving them the information of what they told me in the survey and not identifying any particular individual, but just aggregating the results to show 'These are the issues that are most problematic in your organisation' and usually in the organisation you've got the different behaviours. For example such as driving behaviours, speeding, inattention, tiredness while driving and using a mobile phone typically come up in the survey as the most problematic.
What we don't understand from that point about giving the feedback is why people actually do that. So understanding the reasons for why they have to speed, why they're driving – inattention while driving and using a mobile phone for example, that needs to be understood in being able to move forwards. So that group discussion is such a critical component of this Driver Development Program and that's first of all getting the drivers to reflect on reasons why they drive unsafely. So in groups actually discussing the typical driving day and why they actually engage in these behaviours.
The second part of this group-based discussion is to get them to actually reflect on those reasons why they drive unsafely and then to identify strategies to avoid those situations in future driving. I think this is quite a powerful approach because it allows drivers to actually learn from other people's experiences. A great example of this is mobile phone use. So if there's reasons for why people use their mobile phones such as the Supervisor caught them which is really an unfortunate reason, to hear that their Supervisor calls them to ask them about work tasks. One of the strategies could be to actually turn their phone off and to notify their Supervisor that they're going to be turning their phone off while they're in transit. So actually setting a plan for their journey is something that has often come up in the group-based discussions as an effective strategy to employ to avoid situations in which they're going to be using their mobile phone in the car.
So through that process, three-stage process of feedback, group discussion and goal setting that is basically the foundation of this behaviour modification program.
So just a couple of results. I've evaluated this in two contexts, one of them being in looking at self-reported speeding behaviour and found that those individuals that actually engaged in the program significantly reduced their self-reported speeding over a three month period which was really promising. The problem with that result again was the self-reported speeding. So the slide I have presented here is some objective data that I was able to collect through using on-board diagnostic tools which is a little device that's actually embedded or fitted underneath the dashboard of the vehicle where we could actually monitor the over speed violations in the day, on a daily basis. What we found in this study is that the average number of over speed violations reduced from pre to post intervention. So taking drivers through the process of finding out the existing climate within their organisation, giving them feedback and talking about their experiences of why they're needing to exceed the speed limit and setting goals to improve future driving behaviour was effective in reducing over speed violations.
As you'll notice from this graph there's four drivers that actually reported increase in driver behaviour. This is a very small number which is an obvious limitation of this study but I looked crashes in this sample six months prior to the intervention and found that three of the four drivers from this study actually reported having a crash in that six months prior to the setting. So I really can't say much about it given the small sample size but it could be indicative of individuals that are very resistant to change. So of course this type of behaviour modification approach and the role of positive reinforcement and feedback goal setting is not going to be effective for every individual and that's quite well known. But I think it showed that for the majority it actually improved safe over speed or safe driving behaviour.
The second program I'll talk about briefly is a program in 'Safety Management for the Occupational Driver' and I just flagged earlier in this conversation that this area has been really untapped. I've found in my past research that supervisors play a critical role in creating a climate in which safety is valued and prioritised within the organisation. So if they are actually playing a role in creating this culture what can we actually do for supervisors to help them create that culture? This is something where it's generally in practice, it seems to be - there are leadership programs out there but they're not actually focused on being able to develop those skills of supervisors to manage the safety of those workers that work outside the physical boundaries of the organisation.
The other one I mentioned previously – communication plays such a key role in being able to create this culture. So I think what we come down to when you're talking about safety management skills is interpersonal development skills. So how you're actually creating or understanding the safety capabilities of drivers is really important and I think being able to do that requires a decent level of interpersonal skill. So what this program aims to do is to help develop the skills of supervisors in identifying situations in which drivers are at risk on the road and manage those situations effectively.
We've been able to evaluate this program through just a case study implementation so far. So we haven't been able to collect any objective data from it. So I'm just going to present you with the conceptual framework and if anyone would like to actually look at that case study implementation where we got feedback from drivers, the paper has recently been published. So I'm happy to send that through to anyone that may be interested but what this program actually aims to do, it runs over a three month period and these are the constructs that I really aim to focus on within the program. That's clarifying the roles and responsibilities of supervisors in the safety management of drivers. It's still not well acknowledged, the role that supervisors play in managing the safety of an individual worker outside the physical boundaries of the organisation.
So to actually clarify what those roles and responsibilities are is a really important step in you being able to effectively integrate safety management skills within the daily working tasks of supervisors. This is where efficacy comes into it. So if supervisors have clarity in what their role is it brings them to a stage of being able to more effectively integrate safety management within daily work responsibilities. We do this through being able to provide some self-assessments on their existing safety management styles. For example looking at the style of leadership or safety leadership that you currently have, advocating for a balanced approach not saying that any particular style of leadership is better, but being able to adjust and modify your leadership styles to deal with particular situations. So I think that's important being able to reflect on own behaviour. Again providing feedback, feedback being such an important component within this program as well and to be able to lead supervisors on a journey to be able to look at ways in which they can modify their safety leadership skills to manage different situations where drivers are at risk.
This whole concept of mindfulness is so important. So being attentive to and aware of a culture in which drivers are at risk on the road. An element that comes up in the discussion in this program is the fatigue management. So if a person is working remotely, how do you actually identify that person as showing signs of fatigue? So again really understanding your drivers, being able to identify situations in which they may be at risk and that's even getting down to the level of then understanding what happens in their personal lives and the impact of the things that are happening in their lives can have on the risks – or things that put them at risk in the workplace and that driving being a big one too. So going through a couple of scenarios. So we do some role playing, not the embarrassing role playing where people are scared to get up in front of other people but some situations where - typical driving scenarios and 'What does the Supervisor do in those scenarios?', 'What's your response to those situations?' and 'How can you modify your different style based on other people's feedback?'
This whole concept of prosocial motivation just really is what ties this whole program together, is promoting concern for health and wellbeing and that's really what the essence of this program is about. I ran this program in one organisation and I asked their participants to give me some feedback, both positive and negative. One of the comments that I received under the 'negative' section was that 'You're trying to create mini psychologists.' I actually thought 'Wow. That's not a negative.' I thought that was actually really quit a positive because yes, that's pretty much exactly what I want to do. By that I mean that I don't want to trivialise and I don't think the role of a Safety Manager should ever be trivialised because it not only requires a person to be able to comply with OHS practice, but it also requires a high level of interpersonal development. To be able to understand the interpersonal or safety capabilities of your workers is such a tricky task and it does require a high level of interpersonal skill.
So I think that it's really important to be able to do that and for organisations to acknowledge the complexity in the role of safety managers, the role of communication, the role of interpersonal skills, to be able to reduce risk in your organisation.
So this is just a quote and I think this is basically what I would like to get across in my research and particularly the program, is that when you're working remotely a leader needs to be able to convey that concern for health and wellbeing. I think if that's conveyed effectively that you're going to get workers actually align their own safety beliefs with that of the Supervisor. I think that's an incredibly difficult challenge, but I think it's achievable and it has been established that safety culture exists within the transportation industry. How we do that I think is through this whole concept of communication and interpersonal skill development.
At the organisational level I'm just going to go through this super quick and I think, and many people are very familiar with these sort of approaches to safety management within the transportation industry. But again defining the policies and procedures, the role expectations and the behaviours of supervisors and drivers, ensuring there's adequate risk management strategies, crash database, selection and recruitment programs, looking into reporting and investigation processes, I think you can learn a lot if you have reporting and investigation processes within organisations, and many don't. I'd love to hear from anyone that actually does have a reporting and investigation system and in particular one that actually identifies with the system's approach. So looking at the fact not only what the impact, the factors contributing to the crash at the driver level, but what actually happens within the organisation at particular times of crashes. So I think that's something that's really missing in this industry and I've talked about management commitment throughout this presentation.
So I'm just going to give you a couple of slides before I end. I worked with one organisation in Queensland quite a few years ago now over a three year period to improve their safety program. What we found from running the two programs that I presented today was there was a significant improvement in safe driving behaviour for the supervisors and the drivers that participated in the interventions. Over that three-year period the organisation saw an insurance premium reduction of $29,000. Driver at fault crashes reduced for a high of 42 per cent in 2008 to a low of 36 per cent in 2011.
The speeding infringements also reduced over that time. There was a high of 14 per month in 2009 and they reduced to a high of six per month in 2011. So I think it really shows this whole approach of safety culture and climate is very powerful. There's many organisations out there that looked at driver training alone. This whole skill development, improvement in driver skill is going to solve the problem, but I think culture is so much more complex than that and actually you need to be able to understand the safety capabilities of your drivers. You need to develop those skills of supervisors in being able to identify situations in which drivers are at risk on the road and to manage those situations effectively. Those kind of investments I think can have such long-term favourable outcomes as shown in this example.
Thank you very much.
Thanks Sharon. One of the things that really hit home for me was just your passion there and your depth of expertise in transportation. So thanks for sharing it with us.
People that are in the audience, we'll ask for questions shortly but if you had anything immediate I'd recommend you just start putting those into the Q&A box now and we'll try and take a couple of those before we finish.
Sharon also just that idea of you know, really distilling that massive bulk of safety culture literature into a key idea, that idea of the culture of care or supervisors just taking an interest in their workers is a powerful one. I really see that as one of our roles as the regulator in our engagement capabilities is working with people like you, identifying those little nuggets and making sure they get out to industry. So yeah, we'll keep working on that one I think.
Okay. Well we'll take a little different turn now and start to hear from someone in industry that's living and breathing this stuff in a day-to-day role.
So Annastasia, we're lucky to have her along today, who's going to take care of that part. Annastasia I guess one of the first things is maybe just comment on what DGL is doing in this safety culture and climate space? Are you guys working on anything here that maybe resonates with what Sharon was saying or some sort of strategy there to improve your safety culture?
Hi Tristan, thank you and I'd just like to thank Sharon as well. Her presentation was definitely thought-provoking.
Based on Sharon's research in her presentation there I could definitely see some of her findings aligned with what DGL has identified recently with their safety culture. We had an incident I think earlier this year which indicated to us that whilst our senior management team leads safety and drives it, it's probably not I guess resonating at a lower level within our management team. So we actually took a good reflection upon the business to see what we could do to improve.
We were lucky enough to partake in a cultural survey. It was through Safe Work Australia and definitely the results of that gave us some evidence where we need to look for improvement. I would definitely have to agree that we're looking at our line managers now and ensuring that they actually have the safety capabilities and training. So that definitely aligns with what Sharon's been talking about today.
Thanks Annastasia. Is there any sort of particular examples of what Sharon was talking about, maybe those group discussions with the workers or with the supervisors? Are you guys doing anything like that or have you heard of anything happening in industry like that?
Sure. We've got quite a few safety matrices that we work off and one of those is the requirement for each of our sites. We have I believe over 30 nationally and overseas. A lot of those would be deemed remote sites. All of our sites are required to have a toolbox at least once a month where safety is the key focus of that meeting. I think the managers are lovely and hook up a barbecue and all of the staff attend that.
One of the things that we have identified was there was a disconnect between I guess what feedback was coming through the drivers and our supervisors at those meetings is then what was making it into feedback to the senior management team. We've put a focus in our health and safety unit lately of ensuring that we have a positive safety leadership. So rather than a lot of our supervisors and workers hearing from the health and safety where there's been an incident or accident, we're really focusing on having a positive and proactive safety communication.
Yeah great. So the toolbox of course is something that many industries use and it's great that transportation is picking that up and using it as well. I'm sure there's you know, things that will come out from Sharon's research and other researchers that will help you further unlock the power of that toolbox, how to make that discussion really lively and relevant for workers in promoting action.
All right. Well we're kind of coming towards the end of the webinar. So we might just cross now into the questions. If anyone has any questions you can tap them into the Q&A box on the side.
I did have one for Sharon and Sharon I hope this isn't a bit of a curly one, but I was looking at your graph there and maybe some other people were noticing that a few individuals might have increased in terms of their safety performance, like in terms of less effective safety performance pre and post. Now to me that really suggests, you know, moderators or some other maybe contextual factor that might be explaining that, why the intervention might not have worked or might not have been so effective for certain people.
Do you have any gut feelings or intuitions about what might make that intervention more or less effective in an organisation?
Yeah. That's a really good question Tristan and I mentioned briefly in the presentation that I looked at the crash history of those individuals, the 16 individuals six months prior to the intervention. So three of the four people that actually reported increase in over speed violations across that time, they actually had a crash in that six months, which very anecdotally you could actually say that these people are actually resistant to modifying their driving behaviour. A great example of this type of person, when I was living in Queensland my neighbour had lost his driver's licence seven times and he still believed that he was a very good driver and a safe driver. His whole reason for losing his licence seven times was because he had to drive unsafely on the road, i.e. speeding is one of the big ones for him to overcome the limitations of those poor drivers on the road.
So I used to take these different programs that I had and the concepts and run them by him. There was continuous resistance towards anything that was going to challenge or modify his behaviour. But it gave me really good insight in what to expect and how to actually change things to look at different ways in which we can actually address this issue. So I'm putting it down to resistant drivers but yeah, there could be a whole range of other reasons which I'm always keen to hear about other people's thoughts on that too.
Yeah. I suppose you're maybe talking about individual personality factors or things, beliefs like locus of control. A lot of work there to sort of untangle those things and maybe even contextual factors like the supervisor's style of leadership could impact the effectiveness of that intervention. Thanks. Thanks Sharon.
So Annastasia, I've got a little question for you too. In your experience do you think there's any industry challenges or barriers to starting that safety culture journey? Maybe you've had some experiences yourself or with DGL, anything that people just starting out on their journey, any wisdom for them?
Very good question. I think I took a positive from Sharon's presentation just then was ensuring open communication. We talked about ensuring that supervisors have appropriate training. I do believe that there's been quite a change in the industry in the last 10 years which used to relate back to the very old school kind of 'get the job done' approach. I think there's been a fantastic shift within the industry, both on road and/or off road practices. So I think that they've definitely got a lot more heading towards the right direction recently.
DGL actively participates in a leadership group and we also attend as many workplace health and safety and participate in many initiatives that they offer. There's very good ones I talked to before about the safety culture evaluations and there's also presentations and everything that they can go along to. So I encourage transport people to attend these kind of things.
Thanks. Thanks Annastasia. Well we're coming to the end of our time now. We've had a couple of little questions through. So one of them was about access to resources and certainly in the next few weeks we'll have that recording posted up there. So if you want to fast forward to certain bits and watch it again that's fine. Some summaries as well coming out of resources you can download.
There was one question about situational awareness testing. So I assume that's a similar concept maybe to what was borne out of aviation. I know that literature stream has been applied in different areas. We're not looking at it specifically at the regulator but maybe that's one area that transportation could benefit from. So some ideas potentially of future projects.
All right. Well we'll call it day because we've gone through a lot of content and we'll finish on time for you. So just to refer to those resources again, so again there'll be a summary of what's been spoken about today. We've got all of Sharon's information in there and some different publications and whatnot that she's published that you can download.
A couple of articles just for that foundational piece. So one about clarifying safety culture, climate and leadership. That will be up on our program web page soon as well as some practical tools. This webinar is part of I guess a broader strategy where we're really looking to increase safety culture capability in industry. To do that - it's quite an exciting project – we're working on a toolkit which will enable businesses to measure their safety culture and climate and start to look at how to improve it. To support that – that's coming down the track – there's a couple of resources here. So choosing the right safety climate tool if you're currently looking for one as well as how to administer one effectively, all the different processes you should follow to make sure that data, you have trust in it and you can use it effectively.
Okay. So to close off today, just to mention again our Safety Leadership at Work Program. So if you're not a member already you can sign up for free. I really recommend it because you'll get advanced notice of these type of events as well as all those resources that you can go down and download those directly. The SLAW program as I mentioned is about capacity building and that's really what we're focusing on for the rest of this year and next year is just bringing that information to you hopefully through different events.
Now the next one that we have coming up is health and community services and that's going to be happening on the 12th of May. Professor Helen De Cieri, she did the introduction and she's coming back to do her area of expertise which is in that sector. She's going to be talking about leading indicators, how to measure them in that industry and how to inform different improvement initiatives as a result. The one after that of course is construction finally and then the following one will be the conclusion, bringing it all together.
So after today you'll be prompted to complete a very short feedback survey. We did look at the first session feedback and I'm very thankful for those that did that. We're trying to change it as a result, so please do share your experiences about today and we'll make sure we incorporate what changes we can for the future events.
So thanks again and stay tuned for the recordings and the resources. Hopefully we'll see you again for the next webinar.
Have a good day.
[End of Transcript]
Safety culture and climate in public administration and health and community services
This webinar was presented by Professor De Cieri from Monash University. She provides an overview of the current state of safety culture and climate in public administration and health and community services. This is followed by case studies from organisations that have taken steps to improve their safety culture and discuss how safety leaders can influence safety culture.
Download a copy of this film (ZIP/MP4, 11MB)
Presented by Tristan Casey, Professor Helen De Cieri, Garth Richards, Derica Coley
Good afternoon everyone. Thanks for joining us for the third webinar in our series on Safety Culture and Climate. So my name’s Tristan Casey. I’ll be your host for today.
Now our webinar series is really designed to increase that foundational knowledge of what safety culture and climate is, and today is no exception. We’re doing a bit of a deeper dive into our focus industries, so health care, community services and public administration. It’s a bit of mouthful for me, and forgive me if I don’t mention all of them as I go through the presentation today.
So we’re fortunate to hear from some industry speakers today. We’ve got a few on the line, as well as a leading academic, and without going into that in too much detail, I’ll introduce those people in a second.
So today will go for about an hour, and then that recording of the session today will be posted up online in a few weeks. So stay tuned for that. You should be notified about that as well.
Now our series today is an initiative of Workplace Health and Safety, the Workplace Health and Safety Board.
Okay. So our speakers today, we do have three. We’re fortunate for these guys to give us their time. We’re very grateful. Professor Helen De Cieri is our academic speaker today, our expert, and she’s actually joining us for a second time so I’m sure she’ll be very experienced in webinars by the end of our series.
So Helen is a Professor at the Monash Business School at Monash University, and she has over 30 years’ experience in health and safety as well as management research. So Helen’s involved with ISCRR. It’s an institute that focuses on safety and health research. I really do recommend that you check those guys out. So if you do go on to Google and just type in ISCRR or do ISCRR.com.au, they’ve got some great resources there around health and safety with a focus too on the health care industry. So thanks Helen for being available today again.
We’re also privileged to have two industry speakers. We’ll get to know a little bit about them further on in the session today, but just to let you know who they are, we have Mr Garth Richards, Principal Advisor with Queensland Health, and Ms Derica Coley, who’s experienced in human resources as well as safety, and she currently works with The Bridge, a not for profit organisation who specialises in disability care and support. So thanks Garth and Derica for lending us your time today, and we can’t wait to hear from you a bit later.
So myself, I’m a principal advisor with Workplace Health and Safety, part of the leadership and culture team.
Now before we jump into the industry specific details, I thought I would spend a couple of moments just talking about our core concepts, safety, culture and climate. Now in terms of explaining it, I did come up with a bit of an analogy. So apologies, there are probably going to be a few of these analogies today. But imagine that the safety culture is like an iceberg essentially, and there might be some scientists who want to discover a bit more about what’s going on with this iceberg. So they land on it and they start to do a bit of a survey or observational study about what’s going on on the surface of that iceberg.
In an organisation we might think of that as some sort of behavioural observation program or maybe a workplace inspection, just seeing what’s happening in the environment.
The next thing they might do is think ‘Well we need to know a bit more about this safety culture iceberg, so we’ll crack open some rocks, we’ll dig some holes and go a bit deeper into what’s ticking there’. In an organisation again we might see that in a form of maybe a systems audit, thinking about what sort of systems do we have in place and how effectively are they implemented.
I guess the best way that scientists seek an understanding of what’s going on to the iceberg is to dig really deep and think about let’s drill right down to the core of that iceberg and see what’s happening at that really deep level. In a safety culture context, that means we’re spending time talking to people, interviewing them, understanding what they think about safety, what are their beliefs and their assumptions.
Now if we put all this together we can come up with a bit of a definition of a safety culture. We could say that safety culture is about the way people think, interact with those systems and produces the behaviours that influence our safety performance I suppose.
Now safety climate on the other hand is probably a bit of a snapshot. You could think of those scientists as taking a picture of the iceberg. It’s really that culture at any one point in time, and hence gives us a bit of an overall picture, a bit of a health check of how safety is travelling in that organisation.
Right. Well let’s move into our industry specific information now. So one of the challenges that health care and community services has is that there’s less distance between the work that they do and their customers, their patients or their clients. If you compare it to something like mining, I guess when a worker is doing a task in mining, if there is a mistake it’s likely to affect him or maybe his team, but probably not his customers. In our target industries today if there is a mistake, then that has a really big potential to cause some damage not only to the employees, but of course the patients or the customers as well.
So probably because of the role of industries today – safety is everywhere. We can see it in some of the technology, the drugs that people use in these settings, the patients themselves – how do we preserve patient safety. But probably we don’t take that time to step back and think at a macro or a very high level. How is safety travelling in terms of that culture? In health care and community services, safety is inherently social. It’s about the way that staff interact with each other and their patients. So we need to come up with a social solution, and that of course involves culture.
Now in safety there’s these pivotal moments where we have an insight or a reflection, and really start to change the way we think about how we manage safety in an organisation. So Chernobyl is one of those key events, where the International Atomic Agency reflected on that event and came up with a report around safety culture being critical to managing those really important I guess infrastructures.
Health care is no different. We have a report there roughly 15 years ago from the United States Institute of Medicine, but they really focused on this notion of errors and mistakes and how it’s actually a fundamental part of being human that we do make those mistakes. That report really uncovered the importance of culture in managing how we talk about errors, and how we make sure that those errors actually translate into tangible safety improvements.
As you can imagine, the report uncovered I guess things about the safety culture in our target industries today that really needed some remedial work, so things like removing blame, making sure that the discussions were open and promoted learning, and were built on a foundation of trust. These are the topics that we’ll explore a bit further in our session today.
Now the report also I guess cemented this idea that learning and continuous improvement is a really important part of how we manage safety effectively. That’s always been there from probably 20 or 30 years ago where we can notice that connection between learning from our past mistakes or learning how to improve the current situation and transferring that learning into our safety management.
We can also start to think about how that is underpinned by the culture of the organisation – beliefs about the nature of time itself. So we focused on reacting to the past or managing the current situation. Maybe our surgical team is making sure that they’re communicating and identifying risk correctly. Or even anticipating the future, what could go wrong and thinking about different strategies we can put in place to prevent those mistakes from happening and having a safety impact.
There’s also those cultural elements of trust and blame and maybe the tension between those two things. Is our culture one that promotes social harmony, or are we more individualistic and maybe concerned about preserving our own reputation rather than owning up to things that can go wrong? These really deep seeded beliefs, they’re often invisible, hidden, but nevertheless they do bubble up and influence the way that people behave.
So I’d like to ask you in the audience there a question at the moment. So you’ll see that up on your screen in a second. The question is how would you think a typical employee in your organisation would react if they made some sort of mistake or error in the workplace? So would they walk away, hope people wouldn’t find out about it? Would they blame someone else, try and fix it, or really talk about it openly and help people think about how to improve?
I’ll just collate those responses.
If you are interested in this notion of a learning culture and how it impacts safety, I recommend you look up a couple of names. So James Reason is very popular in the safety management field, and he talks about how to establish a learning culture, as well as a researcher called David Hoffman. So he thought about what’s called error management climate, this idea of how do we make sure that people learn from errors and incorporate that into a safety climate.
So we’ve got our results up now. What we can see here is that while most people, 55 percent of people said that the employee in their organisation would actually try and fix it before anyone notices that something was wrong – maybe we can think about that as a quiet fix or a silent fix – there’s really a missed opportunity there to learn from that event and share it. Ideally what we’d see is that employee feeling comfortable to talk about it openly in their next team meeting.
So you should see a picture of an aircraft carrier there, and we’re probably thinking why is that up there? How is that relevant to our industries today? Well an aircraft carrier is an example of what’s called a high reliability organisation, or HRO. So HROs are similar to health care because they have these really complicated yet dynamic operating environments where things do have a high potential to go wrong, and when they go wrong there can be some pretty big catastrophes as well.
So if you think about health care, there’s complicated surgical procedures coming together, lots of different players in that room to all go towards the same goal, and if the mistake is made it could not only impact the employees, but also the patients and other people in that environment.
So because of these similarities, a lot of the concepts for what makes an HRO an effective organisation is starting to be applied to health care and to some extent community services as well. The key point about this research is that the secret source or the ingredient around HROs is their workplace culture and how they encourage people to think about things that go wrong and apply that to improve safety.
So let’s turn now to some of the characteristics of our target industries today that I guess define them or make them unique and can carry through to how they manage safety. So some of the characteristics that we might say define health care and community services are that people are attracted to that industry because they generally care about people and there’s an alignment of their personal values with what’s trying to be achieved at the organisation.
They’ve got identities. They have this notion of who am I as a nurse or a doctor or a care provider, and that flows through into their purpose and their roles and in the way that they behave.
Probably because of this there’s what we call this deference to expertise, that people with knowledge and skills are highly respected and looked towards to answer difficult questions some of the time.
The jobs in these industries also carry some stress at times. Different ways of rostering things, the high demand on health care services for example, does create an environment where we are sort of in that present moment and maybe not so concerned with what’s happened in the past or what’s going to happen in the future.
Some other aspects might be a culture or belief around striving for perfection, that we are experts here and because of the high stakes nature of what we do, if we do make a mistake that’s just not good enough.
So by reflecting on some of these characteristics you can start to think about this macro culture or this professional culture, all these different beliefs that people bring into the health care or community services roles, how is it actually going to influence safety? We can also think maybe we need to think about that lived experience of people in these industries and how we can leverage those beliefs to actually make our safety culture interventions more effective.
So just a quick note to say that as is the case with our other industries that we focus on with our webinar series, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that adopting this cultural perspective on safety management is an effective one. Just to summarise some of the studies out there, we can see that culture and climate flows through safety behaviours and actually influences outcomes like injuries for employees, and also I guess issues that affect our customers or our patients, so treatment errors, falls and infections.
So what we’ll do now is, enough from me probably, and turn to our first speaker, Helen De Cieri. As I mentioned, she’s very experienced in this field and she’ll be able to give us some insights into safety in a health care setting.
So Helen, if some people haven’t listened to the introductory session, would you mind just giving a little bit of an overview of your experience in our industries today and what you’ve been working on?
Professor Helen De Cieri:
Thanks for that introduction Tristan, and thanks everyone for listening today.
My work is in leading research teams in a range of industries, but we do quite a lot of research in the health care sector. So in the last couple of years we’ve worked with around 16 public hospitals, some aged care residential community services organisations, and we’ve also worked with the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation members to design and implement research projects. Most of our focus is on finding out from workers what they think about health and safety in their workplace, how they perceive the safety climate in their workplace, and trying to identify ways to prevent illness and injury from occurring.
So we’ll use a range of methods. It might be that we collect baseline data in an organisation where we ask people for what their current experience is of health and safety, and then the organisation might introduce some change management programs to seek to improve health and safety. They might be focused on a particular area like musculoskeletal disorders, or it might be seeking to improve awareness of safety climate issues in a more broad sense. Then we’ll evaluate those changes and seek to identify where improvements have been made, which is great. It gives you a chance to demonstrate the value of those change programs. But also to help the organisation to understand what changes can be made in the future.
So hopefully Tristan that gives you a bit of an overview of the kind of work that we do.
Yeah, great Helen. Thanks for the detail there. You can take it away now and tell us a bit more about what you’ve been doing there.
Professor Helen De Cieri:
Thank you. So today I’m going to talk through some different research that we’ve conducted in health care settings, and I’ll use a recent survey we did with the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation members as an example. Because those nurses are working across a whole lot of different health care settings, so they give us a bit of a window into a range of health care environments. I’ll also try to bring in some of the knowledge that we’ve gained from other studies in public hospitals and aged care and community services.
Really where I’d like to end up today is thinking about what we can do in terms of practical steps to improve health, safety and wellbeing in health care settings, and talk a bit about the integrated approaches that have been identified as really delivering some valuable changes in organisations. I’ll explain what I mean by integrated approaches as we go through.
So first of all, to talk a bit about some of the research that we’ve done. In 2014 we conducted a survey with ANMF members and got responses from almost 5,000 of those members. It was an online questionnaire that was emailed out to ANMF members. Two thirds of those responses were from registered nurses, but it also included enrolled nurses, midwives and personal carers. About 93 percent were female, and one of the interesting things about the nursing workforce is that 81 percent of them said that they had more than one job. So they’re in more than one workplace, and I don’t think they just meant working at home as well as in the health care setting.
So it’s quite different from the picture that you find in other industries such as manufacturing for example, and as Tristan has indicated, it’s a really complex working environment with a lot of issues going on. So when we asked people questions, we asked them a range of questions around health and safety and risks and hazards in their workplace, and this slide gives you an overview, a very simple picture of the kinds of hazards that people identified in their workplaces. You can see that they cover issues from chemical agents and noise and needle stick injuries through to more psychosocial issues, such as fatigue, stress, bullying and violence and aggression.
Really with the several different questions we asked in the survey we saw that the psychosocial aspects were major concerns that were prevalent in this health care workforce. When we asked people whether they had experienced bullying in their workplace, 42 percent said yes, which is higher than we see across other industries on average. When we asked people whether they’d experienced occupational violence or aggression in their workplace, two thirds, or 67 percent said yes. In fact a quarter of respondents, so around 24 percent, said that they’d experienced occupational violence or aggression at least monthly in the past year.
So when we asked them what the source of that violence and aggression was, the majority was from patients, but also people said from patients’ relatives and from patients’ visitors. So we can see that there’s a lot of issues that are related to the client group that the health care workforce engages with and the other people, members of the public who are involved in the health care setting. A lot of the times the violence issues are related to the kinds of clients that the health care workforce is engaged with.
So when we looked at the kinds of work settings, we could see that people were working in aged care, in mental health units, in emergency departments, and indeed they were probably some of the areas where we saw more complex issues around safety climate emerging.
So to understand the safety climate overall, we asked a set of questions about the positive steps that people saw being taken in their workplace, and we used this eight item measure called the OPM-MU, which I’ve discussed in the previous webinar. We know it’s a reliable and valid measure of the kinds of steps that are taken in workplaces. We asked people about whether health and safety is given the same priority as efficiency in a hospital for example, or we asked people whether they’ve got the equipment they need to do their job safely.
When we looked at the responses from the members of the ANMF, we could see that you get quite a different picture across different kinds of work settings. But as I’ve mentioned, areas like mental health and emergency departments were where we saw some of the lowest scores, that is people were less likely to agree that there was a strong safety climate in place in those areas.
When we compare this to research that we’ve done across public hospital departments, we see the results are similar. Generally in health care on this kind of simple measure of the safety climate, in health care we see the scores ranging from around 25 to about 29. When I compare that to the work we’ve done in other industries like construction and mining and manufacturing, the average is a little higher. It’s around 29 on average. So we can see that health care faces some particular challenges in trying to deal with safety climate issues.
When we look at the different kinds of workers in health care, again this ANMF survey gives us a little bit of a different picture around the different kinds of workers. But if I focus particularly on personal carers, we see that they were the group that reported some of the lowest ratings of their workplace with regard to safety climate. Now when we look at personal carers, they also said that they had the least amount of control over their work and over their safety, and as Tristan was mentioning earlier, public health care settings can be perhaps some more hierarchical settings, so where people feel that they are not listened to or where they don’t have the opportunity to speak up about health and safety. They also tend to be those that have poorer experiences of health and safety.
When we asked people about their experience of injury and illness and OHS incidents in general,we saw that personal carers tended to have more incidents than the other parts of the nursing and midwifery workforce. So it raises particular issues about how we could address and improve safety experiences for workers such as the personal carers. Personal carers might work in settings like home care services where they’re providing direct care with a lot of patient contact, and that could expose them to risks that perhaps other workers in health care are not experiencing as much.
Now numbers are one thing, but I also like to hear what people say about health and safety in their workplace, and so in our research we often ask people for open comments or we might have focus groups with employees asking about their health and safety, but that’s something that any workplace can do or that the work health and safety manager can do, is to ask your workers about how safe they feel or what they’re worried about with their safety.
In our research we’ve seen some common themes about safety climate. One of the areas is around shifts and rosters. They’re often an important theme, that night duty and rotating rosters are often linked to experiences of work health and safety incidents of injuries. We also see that workload is an issue that often comes through as being linked to stress and fatigue, resulting in again injuries and illnesses.
One of the other things that comes through in the health care setting in particular relates to incident reporting. What we hear a lot is that people are very focused on patient safety and they’ll report incidents related to patient safety, but they are less likely to report incidents related to their own workforce health and safety. We know that incident reporting is really important. We know that it gives you the information you need to then make informed decisions about improvements in the workplace. So getting good incident reporting systems in place can be a key area of improving a safety climate. Also the message people get from their managers about whether health and safety is a priority is one of the issues in health care. That is that we support health and safety for workers as much as for patient safety.
We also did see positive examples happening in workplaces. It’s not all doom and gloom. We’ve seen some great examples of initiatives in workplaces in health care that are making a difference and improving safety climate. So health and safety representatives can play a really important role in finding out the issues and advocating for employees in health and safety. Where we see the managers listening to employees and health and safety reps and taking action, we see workplaces doing much better in terms of reducing their incidents and improving performance.
So I’ve got a couple of examples there of where a workplace representative said ‘We’ve got these things happening and it’s making a difference in our organisation’.
In our research we also asked people about health and safety experiences beyond safety climate, and as Tristan has indicated, the research shows that safety climate is important because it has an impact on employees’ motivation and on their behaviour. We know that where people rate their workplaces more highly on safety climate, they’re also more likely to be motivated to do things safely and to engage in safety activities in the workplace. We’ve found this across a range of industries, as much in health care as is in other industries.
So one of the other things that we’ve been able to show through the research is that direct supervisors – it might be a nurse unit manager, it might be the coordinator for home care workers, it might be the work health and safety manager, but supervisors and managers play a really important role. They transmit the organisational values to employees about health and safety. When we asked people ‘How much does your supervisor support health and safety? Does your supervisor place an emphasis on health and safety? Is it discussed in meetings? Does your supervisor care about your health and safety?’ when people rate their supervisor more highly on health and safety, there are fewer health and safety incidents in the workplace. Supervisors do make a difference.
So looking at the resources available for your supervisors, the sort of training available for nurse unit managers for example, can be one of the ways you can contribute to a better outcome for health and safety.
We also ask people about their own experience of issues such as burn out and emotional labour, which we know is important in health care. It’s a really caring profession dealing with difficult issues in patient care, and that can place a strain on the workforce. Now where people are more likely to say they feel burnt out, that they have to cope with difficult emotional situations and still appear cheerful, that they’ve just got a work overload, that it’s a very physically demanding environment, they end up having more health and safety incidents.
Now some of those issues can be endemic in the health care work, and it’s hard to remove issues such as physical demands completely, but we can manage them more effectively. So lifting practices that prevent musculoskeletal issues are one of the key ways that we’ve seen improvements in health and safety for example. But we also know that where people say it’s okay to speak up about health and safety, it’s okay to voice concerns without fearing backlash, without being seen as a troublemaker or believing that something will actually improve, they’re also less likely to have health and safety incidents. So even where there are difficult situations that workers are dealing with, when they feel they can voice their concerns that helps them to think through how to work more safely and to avoid and prevent incidents from happening.
Now to deal with these issues can be challenging. These are complex issues that go beyond the health and safety domain in many ways. For example if we know that we’ve got people on rotating shifts, it probably is that you need to work with other parts of the organisation to achieve improvements and to understand what can be done to manage issues like fatigue.
So some recent work that’s emerged from the US is looking at total worker health and safety, and it’s trying to shift the mindset from just trying to identify risks and avoid them and just trying to encourage people to be safer, to really think about the strategic benefits for the organisation and for the workers. That requires people in health and safety to work with areas such as human resource management and health promotion to get better impact. You can really exercise some more significant change when you’re working with others across the organisation. So you don’t have to do it alone.
Some steps that we’ve identified in our research reports are for example linked to a range of factors. Now you might look at this slide and think where do I start, and you might look at it and think well we’ve already got some of those in place but I’m not sure about others. I’m suggesting you think about what would work in your organisation. So if you’ve got a blank piece of paper in front of you, that’s okay. Start to jot down some ideas about what you want to achieve, what your priorities are, what the main problems are in your workforce and workplace, and think about where to start.
So for example if you start with leadership commitment, you as the health and safety manager are probably well placed to understand the problems in your workplace. But if you can have a senior executive as a champion for health and safety, that can really help you to get the attention of your board and to get resources directed towards these issues. So working with senior executives to provide them the information that they need to make decisions can be very valuable.
You might need a situation analysis. That is gathering the information to make a business case, understanding what the current main problems are, what baseline data do you already have about the kinds of injuries or claims that are happening, what policies do you already have in place. Gathering that information can help you to put together a case for resources to be allocated to improve health and safety.
Figuring out who you need to engage as stakeholders – that might include the health and safety people, the representatives, human resource management people, key unit managers – working out who will best help to champion and influence others in the workplace can be valuable. I always find having a bit of a plan, a policy helps, but it needs to be something you can actually use, not something that sits on a shelf. So having specific actions and accountabilities can help to bring your plan to life, and then thinking about what kinds of programs you can put in place can help you to identify how to prioritise within the next six months, the next year or the next three years, what sort of changes to bring about.
It probably needs to be reviewed and adjusted over time. So for example in one hospital department that we’ve researched with, they had run manual handling training programs, they’d run awareness around musculoskeletal disorders kind of initiatives for a while, but they’d found it really hard to reduce musculoskeletal issues. Then they sort of took a step back and realised that there are multiple factors that can influence musculoskeletal issues. So they looked at stress management and mindfulness training as a kind of different way of approaching the factors that can contribute to MSD, and that gave them a different way of approaching the problems and seeing improvements not only in MSD, but in other areas of resilience for the workforce.
Now there are some more specific examples I’d like to suggest you consider if you’re thinking about practical ways of improving the safety culture. So some key areas can be early intervention. So having health checks, having employee assistance programs available to people, looking at your risk controls can be ways of helping to provide a supportive environment for staff for health and safety.
Looking at issues of work design can also be valuable. So for example in one hospital department they looked at changing work practices, encouraging people to stand more because they’d been sitting for long periods of time and that was linked in with back injuries. So looking at what sort of work practices and what sort of work design changes can be made can be valuable. Often you can get information about how to inform those changes from your incident reporting, and understand what sort of things have been problems for you leading up to now.
Work flexibility is something that health care people say ‘Well that’s really hard,’ and it can be, but looking at ways in which you can deal with fatigue, deal with issues of rotating rosters and looking at understanding and informing people about how to manage their rosters can be helpful. Leading on to that, looking at awareness raising, making sure people have access to resources, awareness raising with regard to alcohol and other drugs. In one group they ran awareness around dealing with fatigue, looking at things like caffeine intake and how that affected people’s sleep patterns. That can be really helpful for dealing with people on night shift and rotating shifts for example. Also looking at mental health first aid training is another area that organisations have found useful for managing stressful work experiences.
Looking at recovery support where someone has had an injury or an illness that’s required them to take time away from work, looking at how we can support them to come back can be substantial. So we know from the research that where people come back to work and they’re not fully recovered, they need additional supports and altered work patterns for example to ensure that they’re not coming back too early.
We can also look at ways of enhancing resilience, and I’ve mentioned mindfulness. That’s one area that’s been looked at in a number of emergency department workforces for example as a way of helping them to deal with the issues that come through the door. Also looking at areas like fit for work and life programs, looking at moving for life programs to improve employees’ lumbar and lower leg flexibility, having workplace champions in place to assist staff and maintain their motivation through these kinds of programs can also be key ways of helping people to deal with the issues, and looking at the safety culture overall.
I think commitment from senior leaders is really valuable. Being aware of the safety culture and the ways in which you can build activities into an overall plan to improve safety culture is important. But I’ve also got there a culture of respect, and I think that’s particularly important when we’re thinking about psychosocial issues in the workplace, and raising awareness around respect for colleagues, co-workers, clients and the people who are associated with patients and clients can really help to contribute to a violence prevention culture in the workplace.
Having the policy in place is great. It’s an important part of it. But we also need to bring it to life through some of these key strategies and examples that I’ve been talking about.
So overall I’d say small wins can have a great impact. Starting somewhere, whether it’s through talking to your workers and finding out from them what sort of issues are valuable to them can be a good starting point. But we do need positive preventive steps in the workplace. We know that where people see the organisation valuing their health and safety, they’re more likely to behave more safely and be motivated to engage in change programs for improvements of their health and safety.
And then this integrated approach, the idea that you don’t have to do it on your own but bringing on other parts of your workforce to work with you. So it might involve people in human resources, people in health promotion, people in line management, certainly senior executives. Getting everyone engaged in trying to bring about the change can really help the workforce to improve their experience of their workplace.
So thank you for listening. That’s my email if you’ve got questions for me. But I’m also interested to hear from the other speakers today. So thank you for the opportunity.
Thanks so much Helen. I think that notion of an integrated approach to health and safety is really starting to gain momentum, not only in health care but so many other industries. So I think it’s watch this space. I know Workplace Health and Safety Queensland are looking at that integration, so getting different departments or units in our organisation working towards more integrated approaches. I’m sure we’ll hear more about that.
Alright. Well what we might do now is turn to our industry representatives who’ve donated their time today. The first one that we might talk to is Ms Derica Coley. So Derica, she’s a manager specialising in risk safety and compliance in the disability sector. Derica, if you’re online there could you just tell us a little bit more about your work, a bit of an overview of your role?
Hi Derica. You can go ahead now.
Okay. Sorry about that folks. Seems we have a bit of a technical issue there. What we might do then is just turn back to Helen if you’re still on the line there Helen. I guess one of the things that I’m curious about is maybe a little bit more about this integrated approach to sort of health and safety in a health care context. Have you come across any sort of initiatives in your line of work there where you’ve seen that work quite well?
Professor Helen De Cieri:
Some of the work that we’ve seen has been for example with an emergency department group, where they realised that fatigue was a major concern for them. The health and safety manager worked with the health promotion and the human resources group in that – it was a public hospital – and they first of all sat down with the employees and asked them about the major kinds of concerns for them. They did a survey focused on fatigue, really trying to understand what were the issues, and they identified that there were some rostering issues that could have been improved. So that was one way in which the health and safety manager couldn’t deal with that on their own, they really needed to gain the assistance of the human resources group to look at rostering and ways in which they could address changes in the rostering to try to help people manage fatigue. Just by looking at different kinds of rostering patterns they could make improvements for health and safety benefits for the employees.
They’ve also put in place a number of initiatives, so for example where the human resources group in the organisation generally conduct a survey of employees on an annual basis. They’ve worked with them to improve specific questions of interest to health and safety so that the – the survey runs, everyone’s familiar with the survey across the organisation, but it now includes more specific questions that address safety culture issues in that organisation.
So they’re some of the simple ways in which organisations have had this more integrated approach that really couldn’t have been achieved just by the health and safety manager alone.
Thanks Helen. Appreciate you working with us there. We’re just working furiously in the background here to check in with our industry participants. I’ll just give them one more try. So Derica are you there? Are you online?
Okay. Unfortunately we still seem to be having those technical difficulties, so apologies for that everyone.
I guess we might just continue the conversation with you Helen if you don’t mind. So one of the questions that I did have lined up for our industry representatives, or really just a reflection, was this notion of the culture of care within health care specifically, and also community services. People that are attracted to this industry obviously do really care about the patients and they really want to invest a lot of effort to make sure that their welfare is maximised, but it does set up this interesting tension with safety I think whereby that sort of notion of care doesn’t really apply to themselves often. They often put the patients above their own welfare, which obviously we can see some risks or injuries happen because of that.
Is that something that maybe in your qualitative research you’ve come across, just sort of a little bit more depth to that particular culture of care and how organisations are managing it?
Professor Helen De Cieri:
Yes. I hope we do end up hearing from Derica, because I know I met her recently and I know she’s really been using a very integrated approach in her organisation, and she’s got some great achievements that she’s made which is terrific.
But yes, with regard to this caring notion we see it a lot, and it’s also documented in industries such as the education sector. So people have said to us ‘Why are you asking about my own safety? I’m here for the patients’. Teachers say ‘I’m here for the kids’. One of the ways in which we see this as needing to be addressed is that people sometimes don’t report health and safety incidents because they’re worried that it will get the patient in trouble. So it might be an aged care facility and they’re worried about what will happen to the patient and whether the patient will be in trouble. They don’t want to cause any trouble for the patient.
But they might also not report incidents because they try to fix it themselves. Sometimes people might have great solutions because they’re there in the front line and they know what works, but if they report the incident that knowledge could then be shared with other people and a solution could be shared with other people. Or it might be that their solution could actually lead to other problems that they’re not aware of. So reporting those incidents can be a really important part of helping to give organisations the information they need.
One of the other difficulties in the health care sector that we’ve seen, particularly for example from home care workers, is that when we ask them ‘Why don’t you report an incident,’ they say ‘Well I didn’t know how to report it. I didn’t know who to report it to. I work night shift and the forms are locked in the manager’s office and I couldn’t have the form. I don’t know how to work my smart phone enough to use what I’m supposed to do to report an incident’. So we could see there’s a whole range of factors that prevent people or deter them from reporting incidents, and they’re so focused on the patient’s safety and caring for the patient that they put this at a lower priority.
In one organisation they for home care workers developed a really creative way of dealing with reporting where the coordinator had a simple checklist and workers could ring in and say ‘This was the problem,’ and the coordinator would note down the incident. So rather than the home care worker needing to write in a form, the coordinator could do that. That was one way of removing the burden from the direct care worker and ensuring that they found it easier. In that organisation they found an increase in reporting and that helped them to have better information overall.
We also know that again with community care and home care workers we found that workers who had attended health and safety training, and where that training had covered issues like manual handling and reporting of incidents, those workers had fewer health and safety incidents, fewer injuries and illnesses. So this training, and including issues like reporting, issues around health and safety for yourself not just patients in the training sessions really did feed through to improvements in health and safety performance. So there are a couple of examples for you.
Thanks so much Helen. Very practical. I’m just not sure. We’ll just see if they’ve come online. So Garth or Derica, if you could just go ahead and speak now.
Okay, it’s a shame. It doesn’t seem – Garth is that you?
Great. Thanks so much. Apologies everyone about that mix up getting to this point, but it seems like we’ve at least got Garth on to talk to us today. Garth we’ll sort of allow you to introduce yourself there and just say a little bit about your role and the project you’re working on at the moment. People will probably find that quite interesting.
Okay Garth, could you just explain a little bit about your role there and the projects you’re working on at the moment?
No I don’t.
Okay. So apologies guys. It doesn’t seem to be working so well from a technical perspective. Really unfortunate, because these two guys did have a lot to share and I’m very sorry about that. I think at this point rather than continue on, we’ll try and look at an alternative session. Maybe we could get those industry folk to come together in a week or two if they’re open to it, and start to share their practical advice there. So stay tuned from us. We’ll let you know what the next steps are, and we really want to make sure that their perspectives get heard there.
Okay. In terms of Q&A, I think we’ve had a few come through. We will gather those up and reply to those in time. There was a practical question though around the resources. So I did mention ISCRR, and apologies if I wasn’t clear there. It’s ISCRR.com.au. That’s Helen’s research institute that she’s associated with. That will be in the resource pack that we do post up on the Safety Leadership at Work website after this session, probably in a few weeks’ time. You’ll be able to download a lot of resources that are actually linked directly to Helen’s report.
I’m just having a look at some of the other questions here.
Okay. So probably this one. I don’t know Helen, if you might be able to comment on this at all. So the question was:
Q: Has the concern for personal safety in this context of personal carers or remote or isolated workers increased?
So maybe just sort of an industry recognition that we need to do more in this space. Have you come across that at all?
Professor Helen De Cieri:
Yes, that’s interesting. I’m just checking. You can hear me can’t you?
Yes, all good.
Professor Helen De Cieri:
Good. Yes. I think the awareness of the issues for home care workers and direct care workers is increasing, and we do see it also for workers who are isolated in remote and regional areas as well. There are some statistics coming through that show that they tend to have higher levels of health and safety incidents than workers who are in a – I want to say a more contained environment or perhaps a more controllable environment, and where they have access to other people to discuss issues.
So if you’re managing direct care workers and home care workers, community care workers for example, then some ways of bringing people together, so having regular training forums and forums where people can learn about health and safety issues, learn about what they can do to manage their own health and safety as well as patient health and safety, can be really valuable. Also keeping in touch with them, making sure they know who to contact can be very important. For some home care workers, they might not have a regular coordinator. They might just have a different person who assigns them their roster each week. But if you can identify more consistent relationships so that the home care worker can build a rapport, that they know the person who’s coordinating their roster, that they’ve even got some face to face contact with them, that can really help them to speak up and to know that there’s a way in which they can learn from and share information.
But also just awareness raising in the workplace through bulletins, through information can all be valuable, but need to be tailored to the kind of workforce you’ve got. So it might require for example communications in multiple languages where you’ve got a culturally and linguistically diverse workforce. Thinking through the sorts of channels that will best reach those workers are ways in which you can help to improve the health and safety. Yes, I think there is increasing awareness about these kinds of workers, but it’s really been quite a neglected area of activity, in research terms at least. I think there’s a lot we still don’t know about their work experience.
Thanks again Helen. I know in some of my previous roles as a consultant we’ve worked with large aged care organisations, and they struggle with it. I guess they’re turning their attention now to these remote workers, people that may drive fleet vehicles to and from client premises. They’re really acknowledging that there’s a bit of a gap there in safety management. So using techniques like you mentioned of regular catch ups or bringing management down to talk to these guys more regularly and frequently about safety is starting to close that gap.
I guess there’s the issue there of that unpredictable environment that the remote worker could find themselves in, driving to a client’s home and maybe having to use their personal equipment for example to do cleaning or what not. There’s a lot of hazards there that need to be managed. So one of the techniques could be to invest more in that basic sort of health and safety competency, identifying hazards, managing them, putting in controls and checking whether they’re effective.
Professor Helen De Cieri:
Yes, I couldn’t agree more. One of the things that we’ve found is that when you talk to people they say ‘I never even thought about that as a health and safety issue’.
That’s right. Yes, that awareness.
Okay. Well we might call it a day. Apologies again about our industry representatives. We’ll try and get their perspectives to you in some form. Really hoping to hear from those guys. In terms of next steps, so we do have another webinar scheduled for the 26th of May that focuses on the construction industry.
We’ll have Professor Helen Lingard join us for that who’s a well-known expert in this area. She specialises in construction safety research and has just done a big project on safety culture in that industry.
Following that we’ve got our final session, so our concluding session that will tie all the threads together and adopt a bit more of a practical focus in terms of where to from here and what actions can we take to start measuring and improving safety culture. Professor Andrew Neil will be leading that one. He’s a renowned expert in this field, so we look forward to hearing from him.
A number of resources are going to becoming out in a few weeks. So there’s a couple there around safety climate surveys in particular. So selecting one that’s effective and how to actually administer that survey and get some good quality data out of it are two of the main resources, as well as a summary from today, some of the research points that Helen mentioned and some links to some really cool booklets or guides that you can download and start to inform the way that you’re moving forward with your safety in your industry.
So please do fill out the survey at the end today. Your feedback helps us make the sessions better. And again apologies about our industry people. We’ll get those perspectives to you.
Thanks for attending, and look forward to seeing you again.
[End of Transcript]
Safety culture and climate in public administration and health and community services - case studies
This webinar provides you with supplementary case studies from the Safety culture and climate in public administration and health and community services webinar previously presented by Professor De Cieri from Monash University. These case studies are from organisations that have taken steps to improve their safety culture and discuss how safety leaders can influence safety culture.
Download a copy of this film (ZIP/MP4, 5MB)
Presented by Tristan Casey, Professor Helen De Cieri, Garth Richards, Derica Coley
Greetings everyone and welcome back to our Safety Culture and Climate Webinar Series. So today is going to be a supplement on our session on the Health care, community services and public administration session. We were fortunate that our industry representatives have been able to join us again. We're very grateful for our time and I just wanted to make sure that we're able to get their experiences and their views out to you.
So this session will be available on the Safety Leadership at Work website as an additional recording along with all those resources that we mentioned, so the guides to selecting and using the survey and the Summary Insights document that we've produced as part of this particular webinar as well.
So we'll get into talking to our industry people today. We've got two available.
So the first one is Mr Garth Richards. So he's the Principal Advisor with Queensland Health and we also have Derica Coley with us here who's had an extensive experience in the aged care and disability sector and she's currently a Manager with an organisation called The Bridge.
So I might just throw it over to Garth first. Garth would you mind just giving us a little overview of your experience as well as your current role?
Thank you very much Tristan.
My background primarily was within mental health nursing. I started a very long, long time ago back in the '80s and I worked approximately for about 25 years in a variety of settings from you know, the good old days of institutional care moving into much more sort of risky places like psychiatric intensive care units.
I worked for approximately five years in community mental health primarily in remote practice, worked a lot with Aboriginal communities in Far North Queensland and in Northern New South Wales. A bit of time at the university being an Associate Lecturer and moved into the role of a nurse educator primarily focused on occupational violence and had the pleasure of being involved from about 2004 onwards in primarily having a portfolio looking at occupational violence and assisting Queensland Health in relation to some structures and responses to that.
That changed about seven years ago when I jumped from the nursing stream into workplace health and safety and I continued to work within occupational violence. Had a little spell while we were reorganising things looking at sort of more general workplace health and safety but here I am back into occupational violence. I'm one of the project officers on a ministerial occupational violence taskforce which is currently coming to a point of a series of recommendations which will most probably have some major changes across the system. Yeah.
Thanks Garth. I just appreciate the fact that you've worked right at that grass roots level. You've had that practitioner experience. Now I'm moving more into perhaps a strategic perspective and particularly with workplace health and safety. So we'll hear a bit more from you around those topics in a moment. But thanks.
Derica I'm just conscious that maybe people don't know much about you so would you like to give us an overview of your experience as well and what you're up to at the moment?
Okay. Thank you Tristan.
I've been working in the disability sector for the last two years. Prior to that I've worked in both profit and not for profit working environments in industries, for example airline industry, petrochemical. I've worked in retail, real estate, health service, particularly GP practices in both human resource management and safety capacity. I've also worked with arbour culture as well as a consultant across various industries.
My focus over the last five years has been in occupational health and safety. I've made that transition from human resource management into that area. My role at The Bridge is risk and that's Enterprise Risk, Safety and Compliance Manager. The business - I work across three distinct businesses in disability. So that's job service provider business which gets the DMS funding program and day services and community services in disability. There's also a disability enterprise within The Bridge. So I work across those three distinct businesses that setting up, developing and implementing their occ. health and safety management system.
Great. Thanks Derica.
In my experience there's a very strong link between HR and OHS. So I'm sure you've been able to bring a lot of that experience over to your new endeavours there and added a lot of value. So we look forward to hearing a bit more about that too.
I think the first topic we might talk about guys is occupational violence. It's a hot topic presently across the industry and a lot of work being done in that space, particularly like with people such as Garth operating at that strategic level and trying to initiate some change across the industry.
Garth I'll probably start with you and just ask you to maybe summarise a bit about your current project there, perhaps trying to relate some of the things you're working on to our core concepts here around safety, culture and climate. So maybe talking about how occupational violence may sort of contribute to that culture and climate over time if there's an incident and something, how it affects the workplace environment and hence safety?
Thank you very much Tristan.
It's an enormous issue in many respects. Primarily I guess if we adapt the – what's a safety talk without an iceberg? The stuff that actually happens visibly as the direct consequences of incidents we measure fairly well. We have direct costs, we have injuries sustained, we have time lost, but then we have these enormous sort of – and you know, the other factor that is always an issue in relation to occupational violence is that we're on a spectrum from a minor incident of insult or threat or verbal to potentially life threatening and has unfortunately occurred in South Australia just a couple of weeks ago with Gayle Woodford. It can lead to the potential of someone actually being murdered whilst at work.
Its impact is enormous in terms of psychological distress to the workforce and that's equally shared by leadership having to manage incredibly complex issues because although people sort of summarise very, very quickly what is occupational violence, quite often if you look, the definitions of what that will be are really quite dissimilar. People have a lot of problem actually quantifying 'Is this actually a workplace violence incidence?' and that's one area that we started at is redefining what our definition of what occupational violence is so we can actually quantify what it is and what it is not.
There is a lot of overlap. There's a lot of contrast in relation to harassment, bullying or sexual harassment, racial vilification. There are a lot of things which occur which get into that territory that we've been fairly good at being able to define.
Over a period of time we have had a number of positive behaviours that have taken the organisation to a point where we follow a track in a line which is not dissimilar to much of the literature, fairly robust, procedural sort of responses in actually sort of focusing a lot of time and money on training. Potentially it was a very necessary step at that time.
However what we have articulated and come to a point is that a safety culture and the right to be safe at work is one of the key elements in potentially any occupational hazard. That thing, that living culture within an organisation then starts to build, that's the core. From there everything grows. That need to recognise that for the worker no matter what, and potentially we also have impacts on patients, relatives and others, but we had a lot of problems with people wanting to determine whether or not something was intentional or unintentional. No matter what there is harm. We've moved forward on that.
Recognising that we really do need to have evidence-based, systematic, integrated, participatory intervention strategies. That really is kind of an interesting area because if you tackle the literature you find that the magnitude of the problem, the incidence, what it is, much of the literature is actually chasing its tail. It's really providing quite useful information about the fact that it happened, but what actually prevents it or manages it or goes to an ALARP principal (as low as reasonably practical) is the area that we're moving now much more towards. So we can define the problem to the 'nth degree but moving forward is the next step very much.
One of the areas I think that we have conducted a fairly good gap analysis of defining the issue, certainly when we look at industry at for say, there is no one size fits all. Much of the issues in terms of the location, the service provision, the demograph, the types of incidents that occur will vary from your small country practices to major mental health facilities, to your department of emergency facilities, to community workers. Each of them hold unique hazards and potentials and the processes that can lie within respective environments do need to be tailored to fit.
So what we've performed and although it's certainly a high level gap analysis and evaluation of current services and our strategies that are being utilised, it's the start point that any organisation needs to have.
The data that we have is representational. It's not definitive and it's a key problem that if we look at it, international literature is fairly similar to the story that we have, is that occupational violence is most probably four times greater as a hazard exposure than other hazard exposures. The sequela of that exposure is on a spectrum from minor inconvenience to as we know now to an actual death in the workplace.
So a lot of our data sources unfortunately, it's the reliance that we do work with often. It never catches what I'd call a good catch or a near miss. Very rarely we can put ourselves in that territory and that's one of our focus areas that we are moving towards to actually looking at those near miss opportunities to build things out.
Thanks Garth, a very comprehensive overview of what you're working on and some of the interventions that are possible.
I heard you mention the word 'participatory interventions' and also this concept of every sort of workplace is unique and different in terms of how that hazard plays out. To me that sort of makes sense that every time an organisation wants to actually do something in this space it needs to be from the ground level, involve the perspectives and the experiences of staff at all levels. Is that something that you've seen work well or there's, you know…
I think we're in an early space there. Certainly when we've conducted consultation within worker groups some of the areas that we find and certainly it's a fascinating field for me that I feel that as an organisation we tend to actually – we tend to have prolific documents that really are quite wonderful sometimes but do they actually articulate into work practice?
It's an area that we've been working with the Safety Science Innovation Lab with Griffith University looking at some of the potential mismatch of although a document may exist, does it exist in practice? It's a feature that I think that if we look across safety say, across all industries, we have copious amounts of documentation. But does that articulate into changes in the workplace and can workers actually articulate what the intents of those documents are sometimes?
That can only occur if you achieve participation.
What we have started to see across the system and we have a fairly enormous system, is the best practice examples where we have health services who have structures which feed information through maybe a committee structure, it may be working parties. There's a significant amount of work continually that has been going on especially over the last four to five years of masses of incidents of defining where the problems are, isolated hot-spots, reviewing plans, policies and we have a significant amount of focus there from a care perspective, potentially less from a worker perspective. But that's another subject area that we are now focusing on.
Derica I heard Garth mention this concept of a gap analysis and perhaps collecting data to understand the current situation before you go ahead and action things in the safety culture or climate space or even safety in general.
Now I understand that you've actually been through a diagnostic process. You sort of arranged that for one of your workplaces. Do you think you could tell us a bit about how you tackled that sort of measurement aspect and how you undertook your gap analysis?
Okay. So within this particular organisation Tristan, thank you very much, we having developed the occ. health and safety management system I identified quite early on that – and Garth touched on this before – is the reporting that was coming through, we just needed to have more robustness in that because what we were seeing is mainly reports to do with client care rather than the staff themselves.
However when we looked at the reports of what was coming through for the client we realised that inside of that there are other things that are quite hidden and not being said, for example work demands.
We've had a few claims of bullying and harassment and stress, workplace stress. So from that and some near miss reporting, so looking at all that together it started to become quite clear and quite apparent that there were other issues within the organisation that we really needed to be proactive about to ensure that we don't have these kind of safety issues within the organisation.
So what we did then was the way I approached this based on the results of you know, the analysis of the reports that were coming through, is we educated all management team from floor supervisor right up to CEO level on those factors that underpin the psychosocial work environment, that is within the organisation's control that can actually lead to workplace stress if not managed properly.
We were more interested in primary intervention rather than secondary and tertiary because that's all after the fact, people are unhappy and it affects the workplace. It affects the culture of the organisation.
So we applied the HSC Management standard indicator tool to measure the psychosocial work environment and this was applied across two business units. We had 100 per cent response rate at management level. Also we had an overall 67 per cent and 56 per cent response rate.
Both business units' results differ and the results were indicative of what we actually suspected. In our analysis of the results we use a triangulation of information such as employee organisation culture survey overall. We used the EAP reports or health and wellbeing survey results. It was basically anything that I could get my hands on to look at the results of the HSC survey compared to other results of surveys that had occurred, maybe say over the last two years within the organisation. That was very useful and very consistent with the results of the HSC management standard survey.
Now what we identified was potentially unlawful behaviours that were in the creep of the way work was designed. The standard focused on work demands, work controls and Dr Helen, she touched on – she did her extensive research into this. I must say that the results of the HSC Stress Management survey that we did was very consistent with some of these results on job control, the support that was offered resources, teams and relationships of how they worked to deal with unacceptable behaviour, roles – whether people actually did understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensured that they did not have conflicting roles and how we managed change.
So these six areas really was highlighted and we started to uncover that a lot of issues within the organisation that could impact on safety of staff that we needed to address, we also had occupational violence issues and one of the biggest problems with that was there seemed to be very little understanding of what occupational violence was. So that's also consistent with what Garth was just saying. We can see that there are parallels here within the industry with some of these issues and the result of the survey that we applied within this organisation.
Yeah, so a great approach Derica. The thing that I took away from that is you used existing data to come up with some focused research questions. You weren't just sort of measuring everything. You had an idea of what you were looking for to start with and you also used that triangulation method of looking at different sources of data to confirm what was coming out of that survey, so a really kind of robust story that you could then present to management about what was going on.
I imagine going through that process you probably came up with maybe two or three key lessons learned or things you might have done differently for the next time. Do you have anything like that you think other people could benefit from, from your experience?
Absolutely. I think, you know, number one on my list for lessons learned is to be prepared for the results, to act, otherwise it becomes another tokenistic gesture and staff will be hesitant in responding to these kind of surveys if you're not seen to be acting on them.
That was an issue within one department who I think was probably blown away by the results. However we were able to have very robust discussions around the issues that were being raised and then come up with an approach that would work for both staff and management in addressing some of the issues.
We had focus groups of employees and we were very open with what the results were suggesting to us. We had focus groups where we invited employees to also – we consulted with them to say basically 'How do you think this would work?' because they've got very little control over what they do. It's dictated by your funding bodies and partners and all that. It doesn't leave room for a lot of innovativeness. But really we you know, sat down and discussed with them through focus groups how they could be creative, what aspect of the work would have some creativeness in this so it just gives them a little bit more control over the programs that they develop and input into the programs that they develop for their clients.
So the other one was we identified the work groups in one department but in the other department we didn't do that. It was really a matter of wanting to see what the difference was.
Now because we had just done the whole department in one, we were unable to really pinpoint areas that came up, you know, highlighted as having potential issues. We weren't really able to pinpoint those areas whereas in the other group we were able to do that. So that was another lesson that was learnt and the importance of maintaining anonymity and confidentiality particularly when there are small teams. You can choose the method of how you want to apply the tool based on the detail of information that you want when you're doing the analysis.
Yeah, great advice Derica. That importance of thinking through the demographics before you launch that survey and balancing the competing need of privacy or confidentiality with actually being able to drill down and use that data effectively once you've got it back from your employees.
So thanks both.
Just to wrap up and maybe finish off our session today, I just had one last question.
So in my experience or brief experience in the industry doing consulting I've come across this perhaps professional, cultural theme around the culture of care that staff in these industries really do passionately believe in the value of their work and maybe put the patients before themselves, or maybe accept some of those hazards like occupational violence as just part of the job. Obviously this is something that we need to challenge and sort of shake up out there in industry.
So I was just curious if you had any ideas or comments on that, what organisations might be able to do to start shaking up that existing culture that might be out there?
So Garth did you have any commentary on that particular point?
Well certainly if you look at the statistics you can actually see that it is part of the job and to not actually state that it isn't would actually be fallacious.
It is an angle that primarily US nursing unions commenced, and Canada, to say that occupational violence is not part of the job. It's certainly also been something that has actually sort of grown further in terms of our ageing workforce where people now are actually stopping and saying what they would have maybe sort of taken as being an incident and not necessarily doing something about it. They're actually leaving the workforce as a result at the extreme level but certainly they are standing back.
I believe that it's certainly, if you say that it's not part of the job, well whose job is it? Certainly we have moved very much more to a security algorithm where we may have security officers who actually assist clinical staff in dealing with situations.
But there is this tension within most health care environments of providing care to people especially in distress, people who have emotive problems. We do some pretty ugly things within the health care environment and they have major life impacts. The manner in which we deliver some of that news, because we get so used to it, sometimes it's not accounted for in terms of the individual and how they may respond. But there is a tension of litigation constantly in the background that no matter which way you look at it the medical or the health care environment has a fairly sort of copious history where people will actually move down the litigation line.
So there is a tension constantly between the safety of the patient. We went through a long period of open disclosure which has initiated a lot more sort of free talking relationships with patients, their families and others giving information. We also live in an age where people are a lot more entitled and they will unfortunately be looking to you know, information on the internet etc and wanting to dispute what is happening.
So there's an increased tension within the workplace that sometimes we see it then as an occupational violence impact. Some of the areas that we are working on, there's a fairly major, robust growth research study being conducted across Queensland Health currently and we're utilising safe wards model which has come out of UK. It's primarily talking communication strategies.
So there is a lot of tension. We are challenging the perception that it is part of the job. Part of that is through reportage, discussion, review and the process whereby people are actually sort of promoting safe behaviours within the working environment.
So it's a hazard that's going to be there always. It's just a matter of what's in the organisation's control to actually manage that hazard more effectively perhaps.
And we don't know what's going to knock on the door sometimes.
Derica I've worked in disability as well and you know, myself and other colleagues sometimes you may think 'Well I need to take care of this patient. I'll put them before my own needs.' That's perhaps one of those professional cultural beliefs that is out there.
Is there anything that you see in your workplace around that and any ways that you can see to challenge that perception and help people care for themselves?
Absolutely. Absolutely Tristan.
It's just part of the job and staff really did not believe that they could report when they were at risk because they think about the client first and themselves last. That's been a challenge within the organisation because we first thought – it was thought that manual handling was their biggest risk and it wasn't because once the reporting and once staff learned that there are behaviours that are not acceptable and should be reported, and that they did not have to, it's not just part of the job, it's actually a safety risk to them.
Once they started to understand that we've seen a change in the reporting of what was coming through and we started to see patterns. We were able to manage some of those clients a lot better once we understood what was going on because that allowed us to provide all staff with training that was specific to managing challenging behaviours. They may have done this years and years ago because we also have an ageing workforce and they'd forgotten about it.
But we were able to do ethical response training with them. We were able to look at conflict resolution and you know, how they might manage – equip them to manage some of those issues but the reporting was very important because sometimes as our research results showed, the bullying that was happening also was bullying from guardians and parents, not necessarily internally in the organisation but was coming externally as well.
So you know, it's a change in the mindset and that's the change that I've worked on. I can say that there's a vast change in the way people view their work about caring and what's acceptable and what's not acceptable.
Well it seems like there is a change underway, both at an organisational level and at a societal level with some of the work that Garth's been involved in. So I'm sure the industry will benefit in the near future.
We've run out of time but I just wanted to say to both our speakers today thank you very much for donating your time and your expertise to us. I hope that industry takes some of the advice that you've heard today and is able to use that to improve safety and health in your organisations.
In terms of the next section that we've got coming up, we have a construction focused webinar on 26th of May and thereafter our final concluding session where we'll adopt a bit more of a practical focus and actually step through the process of implementing a safety culture diagnostic and coming up with some interventions.
So again thanks to our industry people and yeah, I hope you enjoyed today's session.
[End of Transcript]
Safety culture and climate in construction webinar
This webinar was presented by Professor Helen Lingard from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Helen's research provides insight into the dimensions of safety culture in construction, how it changes over time, and initiatives that companies can use to improve their safety culture.
Download a copy of this film (MP4, 11MB)
Construction – Safety in a dynamic and complex environment
Presented by Tristan Casey, Helen Lingard and Steve Keough
Hello everyone. Welcome to the Safety Culture and Climate Webinar Series. My name's Tristan Casey and I'll be your host for today's session. So welcome back to those of you who have been with us for the whole journey. We're up to number four out of five webinar sessions so far and greetings to those of you who have joined us just for today.
So our focus today is on construction. It's our last industry specific session. Before we move on in a couple of weeks to our concluding webinar we'll bring all those threads together and focus on a more I guess practical approach to preparing, implementing and understanding the safety culture and climate assessment in your business. So you can look forward to that.
But enough about the next session. Today we've got some great speakers. I'm really excited to bring to you some thought leaders in this space. We've got Professor Helen Lingard from RMIT University and she's also the Director of the Centre for Construction Work Health and Safety Research, a very prolific researcher who's doing a lot in this space over the past 20 years or so. We've also got Mr Steve Keough. He's a Senior Safety Advisor with Grocon and is actually involved in Parklands Project down on the Gold Coast. So he's living and breathing this stuff on a daily basis and has some great expertise and experience within safety culture and what Grocon's done to build a safety culture in their business.
So we'll hear from those guys a little bit more further on in the session. With today's recording that will be available in a few weeks we'll get that up along with some resources that you can look at. So the resources there will I guess summarise the insights from today's session and provide some great links too. We've come up with I think five or six different resources that you can download in addition to today, some industry publications and things that you can use yourselves out there in the workplace.
So today's series is brought to you by the Safety Leadership at Work Program which is an initiative of the Workplace Health and Safety Board.
So a little bit about myself as well. So I'm a Principal Advisor with the Leadership in Culture Unit over at Workplace Health and Safety and part of the team that's delivering the Safety Leadership at Work Program.
Now in terms of I guess opening up the session today we've I guess described safety culture in different ways and we've done that on purpose because we wanted to try and give you slightly different explanations or different ways of looking at it throughout the different series. So if you are interested in going back and looking at those, those recordings will help you do that.
Now what we're focused on today is more about I suppose the process by which culture starts to influence our outcomes, our health and safety outcomes. So one way we can look at that is from the inside out. So how does culture start to percolate up and actually have an impact or an effect on our safety and health performance? One of the ways we could think about safety culture and this is where research and practice is going, is to think of it as part of the broader organisational culture. We'll return to that concept in a little while.
Now the first place that culture kind of manifests or appears is probably in a safety climate which is overlapping but a slightly different concept. You could think of safety climate as the general atmosphere of safety within an organisation, the shared perceptions of where the safety is valued and a priority and important. This environment then influences our actions, so the safety behaviours of leaders and workers out there in the field which of course has an impact on our external environment.
The other way of looking at it is from the outside in. So how can we start to maybe influence that underpinning, foundation or thinking about safety? How can we start to influence that safety culture? Well the way we do it is through your actions. So leaders can start to change the style of their leaderships, they can do tangible things like investing more resources in safety training programs, maybe starting to measure safety culture and climate in their organisation which is a priority. Over time this will influence the climate and then over a further amount of time start to impact that shared way of thinking, those deep-seated values and beliefs or the safety culture.
Now something we might forget about sometimes is that the external environment can actually influence all these different elements separately. An example in construction might be perhaps a subcontractor with their own safety climate and culture, actions of other leaders in our projects or our workplaces that people interpret and take meaning from which can have some unintended consequences. Helen will expand on that concept when she talks through some of her research studies and just the general interconnectedness of the construction environment when it comes to safety culture.
So we could say then that one of the goals of our safety culture initiatives is to firstly increase the amount of overlap that safety culture has with that broader organisational culture. We want safety to be a core part of the way that people think about and do business within any organisation. The other goal might be to critically examine that safety culture, ask people to share their way of thinking and look at the way people behave as well and develop a picture as to how healthy is that safety culture. Through various actions and initiatives we can start to make that culture a healthy one and a positive one for health and safety.
So let's go now to our industry and look at construction specifically. So just setting the scene here before we hear from Helen and Steve. There's been a lot of good work actually done in construction in terms of injury and illness statistics. So you can see some up here from Safe Work Australia. There's been roughly 30 per cent decrease across the nation and even in Queensland as well over the past few years. There is despite this, this positive work I guess there is still some stuff to do, some work to invest here with construction still being among the highest in terms of those injury outcomes. So by investing in safety culture and climate we can continue that positive progress.
Now construction is a major contributor to our nation's prosperity. It's a core part, a core industry that generates a lot of activity and wealth for us. It also employs a large slice of the workforce which means that construction companies do have this ability to influence the workplaces and safety outcomes of a large bunch of people across Australia which is great to improve those injury outcomes.
Now the current situation in construction there's perhaps a decline, a period of decline where it is tough financially. There's maybe not as many projects as there were or profitability could be challenging, but the future looks positive with some improvements coming along online in 2017 with infrastructure projects for example. We've also got the city of Brisbane which is experiencing a massive period of growth and in terms of the stats we're looking at maybe an 80 per cent increase in the size of that city and over 4 million residents coming into that area.
So what it means for health and safety is that construction is going to get busier, probably going to become more competitive. Projects are likely going to be more complex as well as we start to build high density, urbanised environments with lots of different subcontractors coming online to complete those projects.
Now this is well recognised by the state, for example by initiatives like Construction Q. Now this was a forum held late last year whereby over 200 people from industry and government got together to think through 'Where is industry headed?', 'What challenges are we likely to experience?' and 'What can we do about it right now to anticipate some of those issues?' So as you can probably guess health and safety came up as a core thread or area of focus moving forward and a particular mention of safety leadership and culture, recognition that these elements are important for a safe construction industry in the future.
So some of the things that came up or issues that the industry needs to think about are the increasing role of technology, how do we modernise safety systems and move away from paper based things, how do we get clear about our legal obligations with health and safety and make sure our workforce knows about them, and how do we build I guess a trusting environment with that founded on positive relationships that helps all those subcontractors contribute ideas, improve safety and generally be part of that general project culture. So this blueprint is clearly a leadership in culture as an area of focus in Queensland moving forward. I do encourage you to check out that Construction Q resource if you are curious about where that attention is being directed.
Now just before we go to Helen I just want to walk you through a brief case study. This one I picked out because it's a real good example of where there were some really significant health and safety challenges but fortunately they were able to turn that around through a focus on safety culture and climate in particular.
So some of you may have heard of the Las Vegas City Centre Project, massive development over in the US. You can see some of the stats up here now – over 7,000 people on site at its peak, huge value there, so obviously the commercial side of it perhaps putting some pressure on the project. The unfortunate part was that there were 12 fatalities over a period of 18 months which really triggered a lot of media attention and pressure from unions for example to get this sorted.
When they I guess went in and looked at the situation there what they found were a few contributing factors that probably started to impact health and safety. You can see some of those up on the screen now. A couple of them fairly pertinent to the situation. So you can see there the massive bonus that perhaps the clients were putting in place for an on time completion combined with things such as just the high complexity of the project and the massive sort of I guess interconnectedness of the different subcontractors on site. All these different factors likely contributed to that situation, that environment where leaders were perhaps focused on the wrong things or not hearing from the ground on their concerns in a genuine way.
Now I'll just pop up a poll here for you to have a look at. So considering all those factors that were at play within that environment there, what do you think were some of the outcomes of that? So you can see some up there – poor quality control for example, poor safety attitudes, lack of communication. You can just go ahead and tick on the ones that you think were relevant given that context that they were operating in there.
Now as you're going through you're probably thinking 'Well maybe all of these apply? I could perhaps relate it back to projects and see how that environment may even be happening in some of my workplaces' and you'd be right. All of these different factors here were relevant for the Las Vegas project. So you could sort of see how that general environment is going to start creating a safety culture that's not conducive to I guess good, positive outcomes.
Now the solution stage, what they did here was that they I guess invested in university researchers, people similar to Helen I suppose, coming in and really helping that leadership team to diagnose what was going on from a safety culture and climate perspective. Now this was a real change for the project environment because they were used to perhaps not really hearing or seeing from leadership their views and concerns and opinions, maybe could have felt like they weren't valued or considered at all.
So this was a real change in terms of the culture, just that process of actually going in and talking to people and hearing what they had to say. So the solution that they put in, you can see some of the recommendations simplified there of course, that people came up with, things such as not only looking at leadership and behaviour but also the systems that they'd established as well like the KPIs or the ways that they managed performance of people on the site.
Important too was the focus on induction and training. So when people were getting onto that site there was no real consideration of safety culture and expectations that the project lead had around how to establish that environment that was conducive to safety.
So again if you are curious to learn more about that case study that's in our resource pack. You can go and read that and see the specific actions that they took to improve.
So enough from me. I'd love to hear a little bit from Helen now who's been doing a lot of research in this space. So Helen I know that you've been in the construction space for a long time. I'm just wondering if you could share with us a bit of a background or a short history of what you've been working on over the years?
Sure, yeah. I started my career in construction health and safety in Hong Kong. I studied at the university there and when I graduated I went to work on some large infrastructure construction projects in Hong Kong including the Tsing Ma Bridge and the International Airport at Chek Lap Kok. So I actually came from a practical industry background but when I moved to Australia in 1997 I took up a position as an academic and during my 10 years at RMIT, the last 10 years I spent a lot of time building up a research team that's done a whole heap of work looking at workers' health and safety in the construction industry. We have done work looking at work/life balance, health and wellbeing. We've done some work around health and safety culture and climate assessments and we also do quite a lot of work around safety and design. I'm going to draw on all of those three areas of research in the presentation as we go forward.
Thanks for sharing Helen. It's really great that you're able to devote some time to us today and all those experiences will be very helpful for people. So you can go ahead and take us through your slides.
Sure. Thank you. A few years ago in 2014 my research group were asked to undertake a review of health and safety culture for the Australian Constructors Association. They asked us to look at different levels of culture and the way that those different levels impacted on workers' health and safety in the construction industry. So we actually looked at four different levels. We looked at national and industry cultures, we looked at the organisational level, we looked at project specific cultures and right down to work groups and what goes on at that very micro level between workers, their co-workers and their supervisors. All of these different levels all had some very interesting cultural characteristics that impacted on workers' health and safety.
But a bit of background information on the construction industry culture. We examined the culture of the industry and the way that that industry culture impacted on workers' health and safety. We found that there were some really important characteristics of the industry culture that had a significant impact on workers' health and safety. It's a predominantly male workforce and the male dominated culture has a 'can do' attitude and cultural characteristic that does tend to attract, accept and retain workers who are inclined to take risks.
We've also got a very complex multi-level system of contracting and subcontracting and this is actually associated with people working very, very long hours, sometimes taking shortcuts, sometimes working in spite of being injured and these economic pressures that apply to this contracting situation can also be detrimental. We've found obviously that the industry has a very strong long work hours culture and this impacts people's work/life balance. That does in fact have implications for the way that they work and ultimately their health and safety.
So industry culture is important because the broader industry culture serves to regulate the behaviour of member organisations within it because it really does establish expectations about how things are done in a particular industry and that in some circumstances can be a barrier to change.
At an organisational level we often talk about safety culture as though it's something that an organisation has or it doesn't have but there's a different way of looking at the way that culture impacts on safety and that is to see safety as an outcome of the broader organisational culture. So in fact the broader organisational culture which is characterised by competitive pressures to minimise costs, risk shifting down the subcontracting chain with the creation of intensely tight project schedules, the gender inequalities and inflexible work schedules that define the industry and indeed the adversarial industrial relationships that can arise. All are aspects of the organisational environment and culture that can in fact have an impact then on workers' health and safety.
So this view of seeing health and safety as an outcome of the broader organisational culture was one of the things that we saw as important when we wrote the report for the Australian Constructors Association.
The other aspect of the construction industry that I think makes it important to recognise that culture is actually quite challenging to develop is that the construction industry delivers work in complex supply networks. So projects are temporary coalitions of different firms that come together to deliver a particular project over a limited period of time. When the project ends the team disburses and in that context it's very hard to form a cohesive culture or a set of shared values and practices in relation to anything, not least health and safety because some companies as this diagram shows may in fact be partners in one project but indeed competitors in the next. So understanding this broader, complex supply network arrangement I think is really important because in order to develop cohesive and coherent positive cultures we need to understand that we're working with different people and different groups, each of which will bring its own distinct values and beliefs to a project.
So moving on to talk a little bit in detail about the work that we did do for the Australian Constructors Association and this report if anyone's interested is available on the ACA website as a free to download document. The ACA asked us as I said, in 2014 to actually undertake a review of culture as it impacted on workers' health and safety. So we did.
We undertook a very large review and we identified from the literature nine core components of culture that impacts on health and safety. So these nine components are shown here in this diagram – leadership, goals and values, having a supportive environment, making sure that responsibility and indeed accountability for health and safety are appropriately dealt with, having a learning culture that will accept that mistakes happen and we need to learn from those things that don't always work well, ensuring that people have trust in the systems and the environment that they work in, communication, engagement and resilience. So these are the nine components and each of these is described in considerable detail in the report. I'm not going to go through all of them today but I will touch on some of them as I talk about some of the research because some of the research I want to show you actually does relate very strongly to these nine components.
I'd also like to just comment on the notion of leadership as being a really key facet of developing a culture that supports good health and safety. Indeed in the construction industry clients are ultimately the project leaders because the clients create the context within which construction projects are delivered. They make a whole range of decisions about the delivery method, the commercial frameworks that underpin projects, the timelines. How much clients value health and safety therefore is very, very important and clients demonstrating strong and positive health and safety leadership is a very important thing.
A good example of where this was done really well recently was the London Olympic Delivery Authority for the London 2012 Olympics where they established health and safety as one of seven core priority areas for the project. They really drove through that whole program of work a very strong sense that health and safety were a very important aspect of delivering that complex program of works.
So talking about engagement has been one of the components of organisational cultures. One of the pieces of work that we completed recently on behalf of the US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health was to look at the way that decisions are made within projects and specifically this research was focused on the design stage of construction projects. So we all know that designers now have some responsibility for workers' health and safety and it's become commonplace for projects to involve safety and design reviews and to actually try and consider the way that design decisions can impact on workers' health and safety. But one of the things that we wanted to look at was who, how and when those decisions that impact on health and safety are made, who's involved, when are the decisions made and who gets a say in shaping some of those decisions.
So we actually collected a lot of data from many projects looking at the communication networks around decision making in the design stage and we created these social network diagrams. The diagram you see in front of you is an example of one of those diagrams. Basically the lines show the communication flows between the different parties and the thickness of the line represents more communication. So the lines in the centre of that particular diagram show that there was a lot of communication during the design stage between the design manager, the project manager and the construction manager.
Now we did this over a lot of projects in both Australia and the USA. We compared the results and what we found was that across all of the projects high quality health and safety outcomes were achieved when the construction team, the constructor was actually in a central position in those networks. Indeed there was a significant difference between the quality of health and safety outcomes depending on whether the constructor was central or not in those networks. So this was a particularly good case because the construction manager and the people who were actually involved in doing the construction work were really central to decisions that were made during the design stage. We think that this is a good example of showing how there is a need to engage people who do the work in making decisions about how the work might be done, and indeed it talks to the engagement component of the ACA Culture Framework.
The other thing that we did as part of that research was look at the way that different people see health and safety hazards and risks. What was quite interesting early on was that we started to take lots of photographs of projects and look at different case studies using photographs both in the US and here. What we found when we showed these photographs to our industry participants who we were collecting data from was that depending on whether somebody was an architect, a constructor, an engineer or a health and safety professional, they would often look at a photograph and see very different things in terms of health and safety hazards and risks.
So in fact in some examples that we showed people photographs of, people thought that the situation represented was very, very dangerous whereas other people couldn't see any problems or hazards at all. Indeed the nature of the hazards and risks that people observed were actually quite different even within the professional groups. So we took this on board and we decided that this was actually probably something really important to learn more about. We developed a tool called 'Do you see what I see?' which actually gets people to look at photographs and talk through what it is they see and then understand the perspective of other people who might see different things in the same images. We think this is actually quite important because these differences and perhaps the inability to take the perspective of another person or another group can in fact be a real impediment to creating a shared mental model of health and safety in diverse and multidisciplinary project teams.
So we think that this is a really useful way of actually helping project teams to get together early on in the life of a project to really understand different perceptions and different perspectives and manage this so that we can in fact develop shared mental models within project teams. That will ultimately aid the delivery of a good health and safety outcome.
The last little bit of research that I would like to show you, well the second last bit of research I'd like to show you is this data that we collected from a large road infrastructure construction project in Melbourne. Now just as a bit of background this project was delivered as an alliance and it was a very, very successful project. This project had actually established health and wellbeing as a key result area and they did a lot of very, very good work to drive health and wellbeing improvements in the life of the project. But this diagram here shows how project events and the broader project culture actually did impact upon workers' health and wellbeing over the life of the project.
So if you look, the bottom axis shows the time. It shows weeks – weeks one to 21 and we collected data over the time period about the hours of work that people were putting in, about how they were experiencing work/life balance and about their capacity to complete tasks at home and at work. If you look particularly at the period from week 13 to week 17 the solid black line, that's the one that's not dashed, shows a steep rise in that period from week 13 to 17. That's actually an indicator of how many hours people were working.
So during that period, 13 to 17, the number of work hours per week, the average number of work hours escalated dramatically. At the same time if you actually look at the other dotted lines which measure satisfaction with work/life balance and capacity to complete tasks at home and at work, they fell almost in mirror image. So in fact what we see here is the fact that the project and just as a bit of background information, at week 17 there was a major milestone deliverable. So at week 17 a ramp was opening onto this particular section of road, the media were coming to do a launch and have a media event. There was a lot of pressure on workers during that time and you can see that the increase in work hours coincided with a plummet in work/life balance and capacity to complete tasks particularly at home.
I guess I'm putting this up to show you the fact that project events and broader project cultures can even on projects where a lot of good work is being done around health and safety and health and wellbeing in this case, those project events and cultures around work hours and scheduling and expectations that people prioritise work over family life can in fact be quite damaging.
Indeed when we talked to people about their experiences they were telling us that they had too much to do and not enough hours in the week, time was flying by and they didn't achieve all they attempted to achieve at the end of the day and carried a lot of it over, and actually came into work at 4:00 in the morning to try and get ahead. So these were the sorts of comments people were making when we asked them about those particular occurrences and it's clear that there was actually a disconnect between the values that were being espoused relating to health and wellbeing and the people's lived experiences at the project.
So going back to our Australian Constructors Association model of culture, this very much undermines trust in systems and in activities. If a project is focused on a key result area of health and wellbeing but people are working in ways that are not sustainable and healthy then that's a disconnect which will have a damaging impact on the culture.
Lastly the final bit of research I'd like to show you relates to some work that we've been doing in New Zealand in the construction industry there and we've been measuring safety climate which as Tristan pointed out is a related but slightly different concept to culture. But we've been measuring safety climate on a number of construction projects and we've done this over time. So we've measured safety climate on four projects at three points in time and at one project at two points in time. This shows the data that we've collected.
So at the bottom, along the bottom of the graph here is the percentage of project completion at which we undertook these surveys and the surveys, each of the coloured lines represents the data that we collected at one of the five projects. You can see that the safety climate perceptions which are workers' perceptions that safety is a priority and that management are committed to safety at this project, those perceptions change over the life of the project and in many of the projects, particularly Project C the green line and indeed Project B the red line, the perception that safety is important declines as the project progresses towards completion. So I guess what this is telling us is we need to keep our foot firmly on the pedal and make sure that if we establish health and safety as an important project priority at the beginning of a project we need to make sure that that is consistently applied throughout the life of the project irrespective of what happens in relation to the project. So we don't want to see for example, climates that deteriorate over time as in Project B and C.
The purple line on this graph is an interesting project because that's one at which after the second survey when the client realised that there had been a deterioration – slight deterioration in the safety climate, the client intervened and decided that they were going to implement a new program which they termed 'Safety First Schedule Second Quality Third' I think. So basically it was a statement from the client that safety was the most important project priority and that was done around and about 50 per cent completion time for that particular project. It's interesting to see that that's the one project where in fact between the second and the third survey, the perceptions of the safety climate do in fact go up quite dramatically.
So I think there's something to be learnt from this graph because often when we measure safety climate in construction projects we maybe do it once at the beginning of the project or midway through and what that doesn't give us is an understanding of how workers' perceptions of the importance of health and safety changes over the life of the project. It can in fact change in significant ways that it's useful to know about.
That's it from me.
Great. Thanks so much Helen. Just listening to your research it's obvious that the research questions that you're exploring are so relevant to industry, they're really connected to specific challenges and issues and context, as well as I think a lot of your research really translates neatly into some tangible actions that people can take. So you mentioned there this notion of the safety climate tool being a bit of a pulse check longitudinally. Over time a project can measure that and see how they're tracking as well as look at 'Do our interventions work?', 'Has it resulted in an improvement in that overall safety climate?'
You mentioned too the distinction between the organisational and the safety culture, something that I mentioned originally at the start of the presentation. I think for people listening that they may not be on board that journey or it's the first time they've heard that statement, I suppose from my perspective it's not so much we need to throw everything out that we know of safety culture. It's more I think just that we need to broaden our perspectives a little bit and just recognise that safety culture shouldn't be isolated or separate to how we look at the organisation generally. What it can do is could set up some silos perhaps where we have health and safety. 'You're responsible for the safety culture part of our business but we're responsible for this other part of the business.'
Is there anything from your perspective there that people might be able to take away from that discussion, any recommendations you have to reconcile that?
I agree with you. I think there's a real risk in treating safety culture as if it's something that can be bolted on to an organisation. It has to be integral to all aspects of the way that work is done. I think it's quite interesting. I think the more I experience from the research that we're doing, the more I'm seeing that health and safety are impacted most, not necessarily by the things that the health and safety professionals are doing which are very constructive and useful and have a very positive effect, but the things that negatively impact health and safety are things that are being done as part of the operation of a business. Unwittingly there is a health and safety impact and that's something that I think we need to look at so that we can make health and safety a much more integrated part of the way that all business and project decisions are made within the industry.
So when we think about clients procuring work they need to think about health and safety in the process of doing the fit. When we think about managers deciding on work schedules then we need to think about health and safety. When we engage subcontractors and manage subcontractors then there's also probably considerations around health and safety that need to be deeply embedded in the way that we do those other business activities.
Yeah. Something that comes to mind is the whole literature around job insecurity. So a lot of work is being done now to look at the threat of being laid off, how does that produce safety risks or different types of safety behaviour that the organisation didn't intend, one example being driving reporting underground for example or investing more effort to complete the job but at the same time maybe engaging in additional shortcuts to make sure that productivity part of their role is really emphasised. So yeah, an interesting area and we're getting better at understanding what's going on there.
Thanks again Helen.
Now Steve, we've got you on the line there too and part of the session or the whole series in fact is to make sure we get the industry perspective too and hear about all the great things that you're doing in terms of applying culture and climate concepts to improve safety outcomes. So before we kick off with a few questions that I have, would you mind just letting us know a bit about your role and your background there?
Yes, sure Tristan. Yeah, I've worked in construction for about 30 years now and I've travelled over in the Middle East and worked over there and worked on quite a lot with very large construction projects and very tall structures in Australia. The role here currently at Parklands is as a Senior Safety Advisor. So we've got a team of safety advisors on site to support the construction team and that's one of the key things that we do and that we strive to do. That's provide support and advice and mentor the construction team as a whole.
So you know, a lot of what Helen was talking about there was just I had little lights going off all over the place because so much of what Helen was talking about is what I've actually experienced in my time in health and safety and in construction. There were so many key points that I took out of that discussion and so many things that are so relevant to that research. So yeah, really, really good research and really interesting and really relative I think to what's actually happening out there today.
Thanks Steve. As you mentioned was there maybe one key point in that presentation that you think really resonated with you or the industry should take notice of?
I think one of the key points there was the perceptions and the perceptions of people that are gaining an understanding of the perceptions to be able to put some programs together to actually influence key managers in senior positions and also set up a structure to change the culture within your business. Safety is the absolute number one priority in what you do and everything you do. That's something which we have actually done in the last eight years and made quite a lot of changes to make sure that safety is at the forefront of everything you do.
Yeah, great. Just a word out to the folks listening, if you do have questions either for Helen or Steve, now is a good time to start shooting those through while we chat with each other and we'll try and get to those before we finish up. So if you are unsure just go up to the top right hand side and there is a couple of boxes there, one being Q&A. Click on that and then type your questions in to us and we'll have a look at those.
So Steve you've obviously worked on a lot of different projects - large scale, international - before moving over to the Gold Coast. Now I understand there was one project where you did have some safety culture challenges and Grocon sort of had an initiative there to really improve the safety on the site, but tell us a bit about this and some of the steps that you guys took to improve things there?
Yeah, sure Tristan. Back in 2007/2008 we won a substantial package of work up here in Queensland. We hadn't established a business in Queensland at that stage and the projects were very, very high profile, large projects in high profile areas - one in Brisbane, a couple down at the Gold Coast. The one that I was actually assigned to down at the Gold Coast was a couple of towers, a 50 storey and a 40 storey tower on a very large site. These were some of the first projects that we actually took on up in Queensland.
So I suppose from the point of view of a business moving into a different region there was a number of challenges that we had to overcome, not only obviously making sure that we could find the right people that we wanted to work in our business that were going to use the values that we had to drive what we needed to do, but just picking up in general the resources to do the work and putting together all that at once as well as I suppose a very large change in the business in terms of where we wanted to go for safety were just some of the challenges that we had there.
We had the systems in place, you know, your standards and we'd just gained a Federal Safety Accreditation system there. But one of the things which I think was really important and which kicked off one of the major changes within our business was our CEO, he wanted safety to be the absolute number one driver in the business. He wanted everyone to actually think about it, to act it, to talk about it and to put it in practice on the ground. There's lots of organisations out there and there's lots of people out there that talk about safety but it's really about getting it happening on the ground.
One of the key things that we did there was to partner with a safety professional organisation and have that organisation come in and conduct some perception surveys. The perception surveys were predominantly with our staff. Those perceptions and the data and the feedback we got from those perceptions were very important in driving the strategy to actually develop the safety culture that we have today.
It was interesting to note that from that survey one of the more – the strongest perception that we got out of that survey was that the business tended to rely on safety professionals driving safety and not so much senior management driving safety. That was probably one of the key points that we got out of that perception survey. It was very interesting because I think to develop a good safety culture it's got to be developed top-down and it's got to be developed by your managers and from your managers. The managers have got to be out there and they've got to be walking the talk. That's something that we needed to really happen on the ground to make safety an absolute priority in what we did.
Some of the other things we did there from that perception survey, that allowed us to produce obviously a gap analysis of where we actually were at that point in time with our business and our people and the safety culture within our business. From there we set up a structure of committees. We identified obviously safety being an integral part of the business. It had to be out there. So safety was then put out there within our business as one of our four core values. I think making safety your number one core value I think is a very important step in putting that culture, developing that culture and saying to people that 'Yes, safety is going to be our number one priority.' Having that out there and those committees and those structures in place, part of the program that we then started to develop once we had that structure in place was a Safety Interaction Program.
The Safety Interaction Program again is a very, very important part of getting out there, talking to people, identifying what the issues are, understanding how people are actually doing their work, getting some feedback on how we actually perform as managers and then sharing that interaction and that information back with our senior management teams through our different committees and through our different meetings and through our different interactions to make sure that you can get that cultural change that you really need to get happening in the workforce.
This isn't something which you can do in a short space of time. It does take some time. It's taking us – on that particular project which went for three years we saw a dramatic difference in the perceptions and people's way that they actually went about their business and identified safety risks and hazards, and started really talking about safety as the forefront of the business. It was absolutely fantastic.
Yeah. I like your description Steve. That made it feel quite straightforward and doable for many organisations to start to integrate a safety culture approach into what they're doing. I imagine though your role as an OHS person there in the field influencing managers and trying to get by and this process actually happening, did you have maybe a lesson learned or one sort of issue that tripped you up and how did you deal with that?
I suppose the major lessons learnt is you've just got to keep pushing on. At first when you bring in such a program and start to put these things out there you do encounter a little bit of resistance. At the time we were coming into a new state with a business. So we had to put a lot of things together to make it work. We had staff coming from different states. We had people coming from different parts of Queensland and part of that was to get all those people to actually work together and to get them all on the same page. That was an absolute challenge and it still is a challenge. It's something which you've just got to continuously push at. You can't give up. You've got to keep going and you can't let any negative criticism or anything that's going to bring that program down, you've just got to keep going and not stop. I think that's the most important thing.
Thanks for sharing Steve. Look we've had a few questions come through which is great. Thanks for shooting those through from the audience. Steve there is a specific one for you that I might just see if you could answer. So someone was asking about the diagram that Helen showed around the interconnectedness of the different stakeholders on the project. So the question was around the contractor being central to that design, the safety in design process. Is that something that Grocon does? Can you sort of apply that model to how you work?
The safety in design process is again an absolutely integral part of making sure that when you design a building that the buildability of what you do is, and the faith buildability of what you do, not only for when you're actually in the construction phase but also when you've delivered the building to the client and the maintenance aspects of the building, there's got to be a lot of thought put into that. You've got to think about all the different elements of construction when you're building and how you're going to build them, what risks you can eliminate. Elimination is always the absolute driver for the business in terms of making sure that we don't put people at risk and ensuring that we get the message and communicate those changes that we have made through our different processes and of course into the people actually out there building.
So safety in design is absolutely integral to what you do as far as I'm concerned and as far as we're concerned. We put a lot of effort into it and again we really pushed for an active safety and design culture within the business as part of this whole program to make sure that we eliminate as many risks as we possibly can.
We've had a couple of questions come through on a similar theme. So the theme is around perhaps goal setting in terms of references to the ‘zero harm' approach of the types of safety goals that organisations set and where those goals could actually work against what the organisation is trying to achieve. So maybe disengaging workers or leaders because they feel the goal is not achievable, or safety espoused as a first priority but the lived reality on the ground is something quite different. So I guess to either Steve or Helen, if either of you wanted to sort of respond to that idea of things you've seen out there, whether from a goal setting approach or just zero harm generally?
Helen, would you like to?
Look, I have my reservations about the ‘zero harm' concept. I can see that it's obviously an aspirational concept and obviously everything we do is about trying to prevent harm. But I think the concern for me is that it's an unrealistic expectation to set probably and in fact it may well alienate people who feel that it is unrealistic. At the same time setting it as a formal goal or an expectation may in fact create an environment where people feel that they can't report, recognise and learn from adverse events that do occur. That's a really unhealthy state of play. So I don't have any direct experience of working in an organisation where that particular philosophy had been adopted and I haven't done any specific research around it but on a personal opinion level I have reservations about its use.
I'd have to – yes. Well I'd have to agree there and I think when you're setting goals I think you've got to be realistic and you've got to make sure that you set achievable goals as well. I think that's really important. Sometimes if you set yourself goals that are unrealistic or are unachievable I think you've pretty well set yourself up to fail sometimes. I think the milestone of actually achieving goals is an important thing as well.
So to go from I suppose, from one side of the story to I suppose zero harm, I think sometimes it is probably a bit too much. Again I think from a personal level myself, I think the way we've gone about actually changing the culture within our business, at first we did set some pretty big goals but we didn't set unrealistic goals. Not using I suppose your injury statistics as drivers but seeing that worm or that graph actually gradually come down over a period of five or six years, to know that you were actually injuring far less people on your job sites I think is a real measure of how you develop that safety culture and how you actually get it happening on the ground. So for me ‘zero harm' is not a word that I like to use.
It really gets to the core of the philosophy of safety management in some senses because you've perhaps got the safety, one idea of it being about preventing, reducing, eliminating and this perhaps new wave of thought which is more about approaching and promoting and trying to encourage more of the positive stuff, so an emphasis on learning, an emphasis on sort of inspiration and vision and motivating and engaging employees to sort of approach safety in some respects. But we're sort of running out of time but I'll just give you both the opportunity. Are there any better messages that you think organisations in construction particularly could be perhaps setting or selling to their workers around safety?
Well I think the message that really needs to go out there is everyone needs to be proactive. Everyone needs to walk the talk and actually get out there and engage with their workforce, talk to them about safety, listen to what they've got to say. I think it's very important that a lot of people these days, they get out there and they're talking away about it, but you've got to listen to the feedback from your workers and from the people who are actually doing the job. If you can get that feedback and you can do something with it and put some positive reinforcement into what you're actually doing and the people can see that you are actually making a difference, I think that goes a long way to building up confidence within the workforce and really making a change in what you're doing. So that's what we're about and that's what we strive to do.
Helen any final messages you'd like to leave the audience with about today?
Well look I absolutely agree with what was just said. I think the biggest thing for me is that we shouldn't try and control culture from the top down. It is actually something that emerges from the bottom up as well and the ability to listen to and learn from the people who do the work seems to be key to being a really effective health and safety leader. I think people who do the work, again my research has shown this, that the people who do the work understand it very, very well and can often have really creative and innovative ideas as to how to do work better. We need to look at their ideas for improving the way work is ultimately designed and done. I think that's an area that I'd like to pursue a lot more in my own research as well. I think it's a really important opportunity for improvement.
Yeah and I remember your research around the empowerment of workers and helping them to videotape their work tasks. I'm obviously not describing it in good enough detail there but helping them to have an input into procedures and the learning process directly is sort of that bottom-up approach of building the culture from that ground level.
Now thanks both of you for being available today. I think we had a really useful discussion and talked about some key issues that obviously are relevant to safety professionals in the construction industry. We could probably keep talking about the zero harm issue all day but we'll sort of call it a day now.
With the rest of the questions that have come through, thanks so much for getting involved. What we'll do is collate all those along with the questions from the other sessions, get the answers to those and then post them up on the Safety Leadership at Work website.
So just in closing today I'm really thankful for our guests for being able to attend as well as everyone in the audience there getting involved and listening to the presentation. As I mentioned there are some additional resources that will be coming out as a part of this series, so some summaries and different guides around measuring safety culture and climate in your business. They'll be up on the website in the next few weeks along with the recordings.
So thanks again for coming along. This is session number four out of five. So the last session is going to be coming up in two weeks' time. We're going to change the format just slightly. So what we're hoping to do is have more of an interactive discussion between perhaps the panellists as we go through the course of the presentation. So less slides and more just conversation about practical ways to actually go about measuring safety culture and climate. So if you are sort of on the cusp of that journey or maybe part way through and want to hear some advice maybe about how to understand or interpret survey data or interview data, come along and we'll make sure that you have some practical take-aways from that next session.
So thanks again and good afternoon.
[End of Transcript]
Conclusion and next steps
This webinar was presented by Professor Andrew Neal, the Director of Organisational Psychology at the University of Queensland. The webinar looks at the importance of continued safety leadership, how safety leaders can inspire safety participation and commitment and how safety leaders can drive change.
Download a copy of this film (MP4, 14MB)
Webinar 5: Conclusion – Measuring and improving your safety culture
Presented by: Andrew Neal, Director of Org Psych at University of Queensland
Maria Mervyn, Group HSE Manager Integra Packaging
Brian Goodwin, Group Manager HSEQ CV Services
So good afternoon. Welcome to our fifth and final Safety Culture and Climate webinar series. So my name's Tristan Casey. I'm a Principal Advisor with the Leadership and Culture team and it's a pleasure to come to deliver this last session to you today. So we've covered a lot of ground. We've gone through three different industries over the course of the series and today we're bringing it all together. We're going to take a much more practical focus and start to look towards well how do we actually measure safety culture and climate. Once we've got that information, what can we actually do about it to improve safety in our organisation?
So we've changed our format a little bit as well. So today what we're going to be doing is more of a conversational style. We've got our three different industry – well two industry representatives and our academic expert online here in the studio and I'll just be passing between those people so they can share their expertise with you.
Now today really supports the resource kit or pack that we put together as part of the series.
So if you haven't got online and checked those out already I encourage you to do so. The easiest way to do it is just to go on Google, type in 'safety leadership at work'. You'll go straight to the page there on Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and then go to our 'Tools and Resources' section and you'll see all those resources. Now I'll talk a bit about that towards the end of today but just to let you know they are there.
So today will take about an hour. We do have a bit of content to go through and our conversations might go a little bit overtime, so apologies in advance about that. But I'm sure you'll get some value out of it and I look forward to sharing that information with you.
So as I said in the previous sessions our recordings from all of these will be made available. We are still working on just transcribing the notes for those for accessibility reasons and they'll go up on the website as well in due course.
Alright well let's turn now to our guests that have donated their time to come along today. We're really grateful for them to take that time out of their busy schedules to come and speak with us. We have three different speakers, so Professor Andrew Neal from UQ, Maria Mervyn from Integra Packaging and Brian Godwin from CV Services.
So what I might do now is just pass over to the guys and ask Andrew first just to say a little few words about himself and his experience.
Yeah thanks Tristan. I suppose I've been working in the general area of safety since the mid-1990s where we were originally doing some work with the National Safety Council on their measure of safety climate and have continued to work in the area since then. I'm currently doing work with the Maritime Safety Authority on safety culture in the maritime industry.
Thanks Andrew. Maria if you just would like to say a few words about yourself?
Sure. Thanks Tristan. Yeah my background of course is occupational health, as such. Originally I started off my journey as the Occupational Health Nurse and I currently have 15 years’ experience as a health and safety practitioner. Part of that I also work as a regulator back in New Zealand for Work Safe New Zealand. So with this background of course I have worked in various industries ranging from food manufacturing, processing, chemical industries and engineering, and of course manufacturing currently. So yeah, I do come with quite a bit of background in all the areas in different roles. I'm currently working as the Group HSE Manager for Integra Packaging for the last two years.
Thanks Maria. It's great that you've been able to share that varied experience with us in lots of different domains. Brian I'll just cross to you and if you give a little overview of your role and your experience too.
Yeah thanks Tristan. Basically, I started off as my little resume there says over 35 years ago as an apprentice in the electrical industry. I worked overseas and in Australia owned and run businesses over many, many years. Over the last probably four to five years been more involved in the commercial side and going more into the health and safety environment, quality, training etc. I find myself in that position now looking after those sort of areas. So it's been quite a challenge.
Great. Cheers Brian. We'll cross to those guys a little bit later in the presentation but first though I just wanted to say a few things to get us kind of in the zone for our final session.
So if you recall if you've watched some of the previous webinar sessions, those previous events were more focused on getting that core foundational knowledge right of what is safety culture, what is safety climate and how do those concepts actually play out in particular industries for example. Now today is about taking that up a notch, looking more at improving your confidence to actually take that information and do something with it in terms of maybe measuring your safety climate or culture and putting some initiatives in place to improve it.
So the format for today, we are probably chunking it into three stages, talking firstly about planning or preparing to undertake that safety culture journey. Next phase is the doing. So where we actually collect that data and use that information to design some sort of initiative or intervention and lastly checking that we're on the same page, that we're proceeding with that plan as intended and measuring the outcomes as well. So that's sort of the rough plan for today.
Alright so let's begin with the planning stage. So we can break that down into sort of three little sub components, the first one being why would we actually start to undertake the safety culture journey? Part of that is building support within your organisation, getting that senior management commitment to actually undertake that measurement task or that safety culture change initiative.
So one of the things you'll need to do is of course build a business case, a reason why the organisation should undertake that journey. One of the places you could start is simply by interviewing people, so different managers in different departments and understanding what levers can we pull here? How can we meet those stakeholders' needs by engaging in this initiative? An example might be meeting with your HR Manager or Training Manager and trying to incorporate some of the I guess, objectives that they're trying to achieve in that initiative. They might be looking to understand leadership capabilities in the business, so by marrying that up with your safety culture initiative you can share that information and hence, have a partner along that journey to give you more momentum in that initiative.
So importantly a business case could look quite different in different sorts of businesses. It could range from having a conversation with the business owner about why they should undertake that versus something much more structured and formal where you're submitting a proposal for the executive team to take a look at. Now we'll hear from our industry representatives later on some of the techniques that they took and we're working here at Workplace Health and Safety on a resource kit that will come out towards later in the year which will have some business case templates in there and some more concrete guidance for you to actually go through that process.
So the next part is how would we actually do this? How would we measure safety culture or climate in our organisation? So the first place again to start is by asking questions and understand well 'What are some of the things that we want to find out here?', 'What are our educated guesses of what the safety culture might be like at the moment?', 'How healthy is it?' and 'What are some of our safety challenges that might be related to culture?' Identifying these research questions at the start will help you then flow through to 'What are the tools that are going to be most appropriate?' to answer some of those questions.
You might find that the tools that you need are more of a survey based tool. So getting perceptions of the people across the whole company is best done through a survey. But if you're interested in the detail of what kinds of beliefs or attitudes do people hold, you might do something a little bit more qualitative, so an interview or a focus group technique for example.
Once you've got some tools that you're considering then it's about assessing them, are they the right tools for the job, and having a robust process there to make sure that when you collect that data you can actually trust it. Now again our resources that are available on the website will give you some concrete guidance about what to look for in those tools and what an example process could look like to make sure that you can trust that data.
Now the last stage of preparation is the 'Who?' 'Who can help me to actually undertake this initiative?' It's unlikely that you'll be able to do it yourself unless you're in a small to medium sized company. So it's important to identify those people in your company that are passionate about safety or safety culture specifically and leverage them to help you undertake this measurement task.
Now in terms of getting them ready because one of the things you'll need to achieve is getting that good quality data from your workforce, is making sure they have some key skills in order to do that. So the key skills are up there on the slide for you but things such as the ability to sort of explain the purpose of why employees should participate in the data collection is really critical because that will give them that motivation to complete it effectively and just basic things like making sure that they know how to maintain confidentiality. All these really practical skills will make sure that the data that you do collect, you can trust it and the employees that are participating have actually done so genuinely and truthfully.
Alright so enough from me. What I'd like to do is just hand over to Andrew now who will talk a little bit about the what is – what is the safety culture, what is safety climate and then move into a little bit about the business case side of things, why would you actually bother with investigating these things?
Okay. Thanks Tristan. So in general the concept of safety culture, there's a lot of confusion out there over what safety culture is and isn't. There's lots of confusing definitions about it but I think you can really cut through it fairly simply to say that safety culture is essentially just the overall way that an organisation goes about managing safety. There's really two broad elements or components to safety culture. Some people talk about safety culture as something that an organisation has and knows that the systems and processes that the organisation has for managing risks and hazards, things like the way responsibilities and accountabilities are defined and planned, the types of reporting and analysis systems that are in place for assessing risks and hazards and controlling risk of hazards, processes for planning work, those types of things. So that's really the stuff that's sitting within the safety management system.
The other component to safety culture is really the people component of the organisation. Some people say that safety culture is something that an organisation is rather than an organisation has. So that's really the values of the people, their priorities, what they think is important, the unwritten rules or the norms for how people should go about doing things, what do people consider to be acceptable. So those really are the two broad components of a safety culture.
The other thing you hear people talking a lot about is safety climate. Safety climate is something a little bit more specific than safety culture. In a way you can think of safety climate as an aspect of this broader safety culture. So measures of safety climate really focus on the perceptions of staff, employees regarding policies, practices and procedures relating to safety. So a typical safety climate survey would have questions in it relating to a range of things like people's perceptions of the extent to which management cares about safety, perceptions of the quality of the training, procedures for training, communication, risk, safety systems more broadly.
There's been a lot of research done on employee perceptions of safety climate. We know that they matter. There's a lot of evidence showing that employees are more likely to comply with safety procedures and they're more likely to do those types of voluntary extra role activities, helping, going above and beyond the formal safety requirements of the role and helping out other people, what we call participation in safety. They're more likely to do those things when they perceive there's a really positive safety climate within the organisation.
So the question is why does it matter? Why would you bother trying to assess safety culture or slightly more specifically safety climate in an organisation? So the answer – there's a number of different answers to that but probably the one that works - I've found works in industry, in lots of different industries is really the safety plateau argument. You see across a wide range of different industries when you look at accident and incident statistics over time you see the same general trend of accidents and incidents going down but most industries are finding that they're reaching a plateau in terms of what they can achieve. It's getting harder and harder to achieve further improvements in accident and injury rates. So the figure we've got up there shows accident rates in the aviation industry. You see similar patterns elsewhere.
So it's been the experience in industries that you can get reasonably large gains in accident and injury rates early on due to improvements in machinery and equipment. That's all pretty much been done now. Aviation industry got fairly substantial further gains due to improvements in their policies and procedures for managing safety but as they move along that curve it gets harder and harder to get further improvements in safety and that's why there's this focus really on people and culture as the thing that's going to leverage future gains.
Thanks Andrew. One of the things that we're starting to see is association of safety with probably more general organisational outcomes and the basic conclusion that good safety is good for business. So at that very high level there's obviously a clear, compelling case for businesses to invest in culture and leadership because they do get that spill over effect in other domains.
Maria now I understand that you're sort of undertaking your safety culture journey at Integra Packaging and you've got some really practical advice there around securing support and getting that buy in from the workforce. So if you wouldn't mind just giving us an overview of what you've experienced in your organisation, that'd be great.
Sure. Sure Tristan. Thank you. Well we are actually in kind of the early stages of this journey on culture basically. I started off with this company close to two years. So one of the things when I was recruited was my GM asked me 'Alright we have this guy who wants to cut a rope that's going up but he's improvising. He ties the knife with a stick and he tries to cut that off', you know, 'and we lost this year this customer because of that reason. We need to change the culture here Maria. We need to do something.'
That got me actually starting to think "Alright let me do a gap analysis and see what are the drops in the system before we really say 'Alright culture is a problem'." So that led me on to looking into all our information in terms of incident database, accidents, safety performance indicators, having a chat with the people around and understanding what their perception and understanding is of safety in the company. Going through all that information I came across one thing that some of them have this attitude 'She'll be right' attitude or you know, 'Doesn't bother. I do my job and I go.' So I put all this information together and I designed a safety culture business case. I presented that in front of the senior management team comprising of course of the Managing Director and the General Manager.
Part of that was – part of that presentation, what we went through was the safety culture ladder as you can see here. They had a look at it and probably they read it as we went along but then they couldn't understand 'What's about this?' I said 'See this is a ladder and this is the safety culture ladder. From all the information that I've gathered I see that we are in the reactive phase. So we don't really have it all there but we are on a journey right now.' That kind of for them was 'Right okay, so it kind of shows there is a journey we've got to go on and we don't where we are.' They said 'Alright fine. This is all okay. I can see. But so how do we get that?' So of course we talked about ways and things about where and what we can do.
But they were not very sure. 'Alright how do we go? We know where to go.' So we said 'Alright let's set aside some targets and some measurable targets and specifically time oriented so that we know what we need to do and this is where we need to get.' What we did was we broke them down into four chunks, four quarters of the year. So one phase we plan, then we do and then check. Then we go back and review that. So we spread it across through the year and we said what we're really going to do. They were actually tangible measurements.
So having a look at this, our MD and MG were quite impressed. They could see that they have certain responsibilities and involvement and roles to play as well. That was not easy at the start but we had a think about it. We had a few discussions from there on and they really took in. They bought it in. So yeah that's basically how we went with that.
Thanks Maria. I'm sure people appreciate the sort of nuts and bolts of how you've tackled that high level task. I guess what we'll hear from a little bit later when we get up to that section is more about bringing the workforce along on the journey and some of the techniques that you've used there.
What we'll do now is just change our tact a little bit and start to drill down into the 'How?' part. So how do we actually choose the right measurement tool to actually understand our culture and climate? So just to talk a little bit more about that, so as I mentioned before an important stage of getting ready to do this is talking to the right people, understanding what's motivating them, what do they already know about safety and what kind of questions or hypotheses do those people have that you can try and answer as part of your diagnostic. Now this is really important because it will help you evaluate those tools that you do find out there in your journeys, making sure that they have the right questions and they're getting the information that you need.
Now another really key point is looking at what data you already collect because in many organisations there's annual surveys, there's engagement data, there's stuff there that could potentially give you a little bit more of a broader picture into your workplace culture and hence inform how you look at safety as well. So doing that stocktake of 'What do we already have?', 'How can we integrate the safety chunk into that?' and then using that moving forward with your initiative is important.
Related to this is talking to those that have done previous research projects, surveys or consultations with the workforce and find out what did or didn't work. What kind of styles or techniques resonated with say the maintenance workers in Crew A versus the techniques that worked well with senior management? So very roughly it might be something like 'We spend maybe an hour interviewing our senior managers to understand the culture in more detail' and something more nimble or versatile for those front line groups, maybe a very short survey, some focus groups, something where they can quite simply participate and share their views and opinions. So being adaptable in how you're running your assessment can be important to make sure you get all those stakeholders involved appropriately.
Now once you've selected or identified I guess some of your tools, it's about 'Well are these the right ones?' and 'Are they going to get us the right quality data that we actually need to make firm conclusions?' In the psychology space we talk about assessments being valid and reliable. So just to explain a little bit about what those terms mean, so the validity of an assessment if we think about safety culture or climate as being the target and our assessment as being the dart, when we throw that dart are we going to get that bullseye? Are we going to get to the core essence of what safety culture is? The reliability part is if we kept throwing darts at it is it going to keep hitting that same spot or is it going to be spread across the target and hence be a little bit aeroplane? These are sort of the technical terms that you might want to ask say the external consultant or go to the report that outlines the assessment and look for information there to tell you 'Is it valid?', 'Is it reliable?'
Again in our resource kit, so there's one there that's Making the Most of Your Safety Climate Survey and the other one Selecting the Right Climate Survey, that would give you some guidance around what to actually look for in terms of different figures or information to validate that.
The last little component is well, we've got these tools and we know that they're good, they've got that validity and the reliability but how will we actually make use of that data once we collect it? Something we might not sort of think about when we're going down this path or if we've never done it before, something we're not aware of, but really what kind of techniques can we use with that information to make sense of it? So at a very basic level it could just be will this tool actually permit us to rank order the different dimensions of safety culture and hence find out where are our pain points and where are we doing well? Or will that tool include maybe some benchmarking data or some sort of threshold or cut off score which tells us how healthy is that climate or culture? So doing some digging around that aspect can be very beneficial, maybe even linking in with other companies that have previously run the survey and you can compare data if they're open to that.
Other things to think about - so practical issues like how long it is, how complex and if the measure is copyrighted. These are all things you'll need to consider particularly in light of the audience that's actually going to complete the assessment. So in previous roles I've done a lot of these different surveys and one of the clients that we had, a lot of the workforce had difficulty reading. So literacy was a challenge. What we decided to do was adapt that process where we actually read out some of the questions to that group and enabled them to all participate. So thinking through those really practical questions will help you have a much more effective data collection and make sure that everyone can actually get involved and hence participate in the culture you're trying to achieve.
So again that was just to whet your appetite about different things to look for. I'd like to pass over to Andrew again and just ask him to comment on what should industry actually be looking for when they're evaluating those types of assessments to measure their culture and climate and maybe a rough process or tips that industry should follow to make sure the data they can actually trust and take something away from?
Okay. Thanks Tristan. So in terms of what people should be looking for in safety culture and climate assessments, I think the points that Tristan made are really, really important. I think reliability and validity are kind of your two starting points. Like there's no point doing a survey if the measure is rubbish. So reliability – another way of explaining what reliability is, it's really all about the accuracy of the measurement. Whenever you try to measure anything, you get a ruler out and measure a physical quantity, like how long something is or you're trying to weigh it, there's always measurement error associated with that. When you administer a survey and start asking people about what's in their heads then measurement error is a real issue here. You administer a survey on two different occasions and you can get slightly different results depending on what somebody had for breakfast in the morning, how they're feeling at the time. They can give you a slightly different answer. So it's important that your measure is designed well in order to maximise the reliability, the accuracy of that measurement.
Validity is really a question of is it measuring the right thing? So you could have something that is highly reliable, that's accurate in terms of its measurement but it could be it's off target, it's measured, it's not actually measuring what you think it's measuring. So there are lots of – if you look out there there's lots of different safety climate and safety culture surveys out there in the marketplace but a lot of them have not been comprehensively validated. So I think that’s really one of the critical questions you need to ask your provider. 'What's the evidence for the reliability of this measure?', 'What's the evidence for the validity of this measure?' You don't want to choose a measure that somebody's just made up a whole set of questions, put them in a survey and called it a survey of safety culture or safety climate.
The other point that Tristan raised that I think is really important is the issue of benchmarking. So if you administer a survey, safety climate, so it's measuring things like perceptions of management, values, commitment, communication, those types of things, so you'll come back with a set of scores on scales that represent different dimensions. So you might get a score of 4 out of 5 or 4.3 out of 5 and the question is 'What does that actually mean?', 'Is that good?', 'Is that bad?', 'How do you know what the – how do you interpret the score that you get back?' and that's where benchmarking becomes important.
So if you know that other organisations in similar industries, you're performing above the mean or below the mean relative to other organisations then that helps you to interpret whether your scores are high or they're low. Similarly comparing across different units or groups within the organisation can lead you to identify okay, 'So in which parts of this business unit or this work process are we getting high scores?', 'Which parts are we getting low scores?' So it's really in terms of those comparisons that that's where you get the most useful information rather than just the raw number itself.
In terms of the process I think, so triangulation is a really important issue. So trying to get information from different types of sources. So a survey of climate or culture is really useful in terms of getting quantitative data back, so hard numbers. So getting information from a lot of people and being able to kind of systematically compare that to how people perceive safety in other industries, other companies or across different groups or doing that kind of benchmarking comparison I talked about. Okay that's what surveys are really good for.
Qualitative data – so going and running focus groups and interviewing I think is really important to do as well because that then helps you to interpret the survey results. It gives you the richness and the understanding that you wouldn't get just from the numbers themselves. It also allows you to kind of test the meaning of the numbers that you're getting back. In some cases you'll find if people don't trust a survey instrument or they're suspicious about the motives of what the data is going to be used for they can distort their responses. You'll get people saying 'Yeah. Everything's brilliant here' and on a five point scale everything comes back 5, 5, 5, 5 all the way down the survey. If you're doing interviews and focus groups you can explore the reasons why people are responding in the way they are and try to detect whether there's the potential that you're being misled by the data you're getting back. So I think that process of triangulation and testing what you're getting back is really important. So I'd say those are the two main issues.
Yeah great. Thanks Andrew. Really good to combine the different data sources and as you said explore what those survey responses actually mean. That can pay back in dividends because you're employees are getting that signal that 'Yes. Management have looked at the survey and they actually want to know more. They want us to tell them how it's personally relevant or what issues are relevant to me in my workplace, in my day to day life.' So really good to connect with employees in that way.
So now we'd just like to hear from Maria again. Maria has already undertaken a few of these things herself in her organisation and can give us a bit more practical advice about well, what does it actually look like on the ground with businesses doing this type of stuff? So Maria you can take over from here.
Yeah thanks Tristan. Yes actually like I was saying earlier we started this journey and we happened to at that point also start in fact venturing into the IPaM program. I'm not sure if you're all aware of it. It's Injury Prevention and Management program set out by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. Our lead person for that is Julie Smith from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. So I was working alongside her while we started off this journey and she immediately suggested that they have a tool that we could use and we were just at that point. It's the Safety Climate Survey. The survey basically has nine key elements. Basically management commitment, communication, priority for safety, safety rules and procedures, supportive environment, involvement in safety, personnel priorities and need for safety, personnel appreciation of risk and work environment.
So what we basically did was we took the survey and this is an anonymous survey. So we took it out all the staff members. We talked about it and explained how to complete the survey in the toolbox meetings, department meetings and safety committee meetings, and the reasons why we're doing it as well. So there was this vibe that we had to take also the employees and say why we're really doing this and explain it to them. They were quite receptive because it was anonymous. So we gave them a week to complete it and also we offered help to those people who probably had some literacy issues to sit down and explain to them what the questions are so that they can answer it.
So this took us about close to two to three weeks and yes, we completed the survey. We sent it back to Julie and all the papers to Julie of course didn't have any names on them. She sent us a report which actually was like a spider graph and it shows in each of those elements how much we had support. It was really good to see the feedback from people on what they really feel and what their understanding and perception is of safety in the organisation which actually gave us a good benchmarking, you know. We went around and seen how we feel we stand as management but to get feedback from everyone to say like 'This is where I think we are at with safety.' It was really amazing to see the score.
So we went around with that and talked to everybody about the results and they were quite interested. In fact they even came and asked me, 'So what was the report out of that?' We told them and so that gave me an indication that they are actually looking at – they want to know what's happening. So that was really good and for us it actually confirmed the level we were in that ladder. It was reactive.
So apart from this we also looked at our indicators in terms of KPIs and we changed that into Positive Performance Indicators which was also part of the IPaM program. So that was really very useful and I found that it was tangible and we could really see and say what it is. We are looking forward to doing another survey at the end of this year just to see how well we have performed since the first one. So yes, that's basically how we measured our safety culture.
The steps that we took to change this culture basically in the organisation were a few things. To start off with we wanted to make it very personal for the employees. We showed them some videos which again thanks to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland some of those videos where people went to work and real normal people to work one day and were injured or some of the stories they did not make it. They didn’t go back home. We kind of talked about these stories as a safety share for each of our meetings and forums. We wanted to make it personal. We started off with this and then we asked every person in the company to give us a snapshot of what they felt the reasons why they go back home, why they want to be safe, what are they going back to, who are they going back to, just give us a snapshot of that. As simple as that.
This was a task each of us in the management team took on board and our MD actually went a step ahead. He actually drafted out a letter and signed it personally to each and every employee asking them to pledge for safety, to work safe and go back home. So all this kind of put a personal touch to the whole thing and the outcome of that…
…we put all these photos together. We created this montage or collage and it was the safety campaign that probably I think I mentioned earlier. We launched this as 'HSE With Integrity'. HSE stands for Health, Safety and Environment. We put our caption in the middle and of course you can see that. 'You're Coming Back. Right?' which kind of, if you see the photo, each person in the company could relate to one photo in that that was personal to them and that's a question they would ask. It has a huge impact now because we put this in the lunch room. In our reception there's a huge board that people look into and say 'Wow. Alright. Who's that? What's this?' and people are like really proud to say 'That's my daughter', 'That's my son', 'That's what I go back to.' There's a bit of pride in which people take to say why they go back to. So that was really cool.
Since we have actually started these things with the IPaM and having a new HSE plan and working through as we went along, we could actually see some changes coming through with the team. People started to speak up. They started reporting hazards which was not before. It was very reactive. There's a few little things coming up that we've seen changes which wasn't there before like if probably the MD would go out into the plant he may not have had his high viz. Now he could go. One of the boys would come across and say 'But you don't have your high viz on.' So that's kind of broken for us, that's broken a barrier that he's able to come and tell the MD, 'You haven't got your high viz. Please put it on.' So I think that was huge for us.
Thanks Maria. So I guess the importance there is that the essence of safety culture or culture in the workplace is the values, the shared value for safety and connecting people individually to that core message that the organisation is trying to promote. Your example there is a really good one in terms of the tangible ways that an organisation can start to do that.
So we talked I guess about the preparation, the planning, how would we go about doing it and now it's the 'Do' phase, what we actually do to make a change and use that information for a positive benefit. We can think of the doing part in terms of three main components. So firstly collecting our diagnostic data, getting that understanding of what's going on, taking that and using it to design some sort of series of initiatives. Usually it's more than one thing to change a culture as everyone probably knows. It's not just implement a training program. It's a lot of different things all working in unison to improve the state of safety in the organisation and lastly putting that in place and making sure those changes are sticking within the organisation.
So if we concentrate on perhaps the design part for a moment, I'll just say a few words about this before passing over. We can think about it in maybe three different levels of how deep you're going in terms of that culture. At the deepest level we can think about culture as being the values and the beliefs that often may be an unconscious sort of way of thinking in the organisation. Now we know that and intuitively it's very difficult to change people's beliefs. They're tightly held. They may not even be aware of them. So where we're seeing the science go now is just trying to understand what are those beliefs by doing the qualitative part that Andrew mentioned - the interviewing, the focus groups – trying to understand what is the context of the way that people think in this organisation and how might we be able to use that to our advantage.
So an example there is linking that shared value of the importance of family and friends and home life to safety and making sure that people can connect the dots there and do safety because it helps them go home at the end of the day.
Taking it up to maybe more a surface level is the systems that an organisation has in place. So by making changes to those systems and putting certain types of systems in place we can actually start to influence that underlying culture, that shared value and belief over time. So in the transportation industry there's a big focus on putting different forms of driver monitoring into vehicles and not necessarily to discipline or enforce rules but rather to give drivers feedback around well 'Maybe you are engaging in some risky behaviour here' and an opportunity for supervisors to connect personally with those drivers and give them feedback in a way that promotes a positive safety culture.
At the highest level we can talk about behaviour and thinking about well, as leaders what sort of changes can we make to the style of our leadership or the things that we notice and recognise or even ignore to start to build that safety culture. So that the way the supervisor interacts with a subordinate or a worker about safety and making sure that those communications happen often and are genuine are some of the ways that we can start to make a difference.
Alright. So I'll pass over to Andrew again. Andrew's been involved in many, many different research projects but one he's done recently I think will give you a really good idea of that measurement process and how we can actually use that data to make some changes to improve safety. So Andrew over to you.
Okay thanks. So this project we have been doing with the Maritime Safety Authority and it's really about trying to understand the level of safety culture on board vessels, international vessels operating in Australian waters.
So where we started the project was basically as I was saying, initially doing some triangulation. So we started by going – we went on board vessels, visiting Port of Brisbane and Port of Fremantle. We went on board with inspectors from the Maritime Safety Authority. So what we asked the ship's captains basically to do an interview with the ship's captain to try to understand a little bit about safety culture and to survey their crew. So we're using a standard measure, an off the shelf measure of safety climate to do that. That was really interesting in terms of process and some of those issues that we were talking about before because what we could see were very different results from the survey and the interview.
So the survey data came back suggesting really high, positive safety climate on board these ships. The interviews when you talk to the captains about safety, so initially you ask a little bit about say the priorities, what are the key priorities for the captain, trying to understand that. They tell you 'Safety is our highest priority.' But then when you probe that a little bit more deeply in terms of 'Okay. So what are the types of things that make it difficult for you to do your job?', 'What are the challenges that you face?' then a whole lot of really interesting information started to come out about the commercial pressures that they're under. You could clearly see a trade-off between the requirement for running to schedule and maintaining the schedule and safety.
So we got some really nice quotes from some of the captains about there really are situations where it's really strong pressure particularly important where you've got a tight turnaround time. They have to get that ship loaded and unloaded really quickly and crew are basically having to work beyond their standard duty hours. So you're seeing work rest schedules not being complied with. There's pressure on the crew to get the job done as quickly as they can and a whole range of potential risks and hazards associated with that.
So that was really interesting in terms of the discrepancy between the interview data and the survey data. Part of what was going on there was really the way we were going about trying to collect the survey data. The fact that we had gone on board those vessels even though we're an external university research team. We'd gone on board the vessels with the inspectors from the Regulator.
So the crew on the board these vessels, particularly the ones where there was a particularly poor or dysfunctional safety culture were scared. You could see wide-eyed people. They were unsure about what this data was going to be used for. The fact that we tell them it's confidential, they're not identifiable, that didn't make any difference as far as they were concerned. So they just told us what they thought the regulator wanted to hear. So I think that illustrates the importance of trying to think about when you're doing a survey, communicating with people ahead of time, getting buy in and getting understanding about how the data's going to be used, being able to convince people and assure people that the data's not going to be misused.
So what we've done since then in terms of trying to, survey based measures of safety culture in this industry is we've changed the way that we deliver the surveys. So we tried going through the companies rather than going on board vessels with inspectors. We found that didn't work because none of the companies basically – that didn't help very much in terms of actually getting access to data. So that didn't work but instead what we did was to deliver the surveys basically as crew were coming off ships and they're going through the missions at the port, basically we had people sitting there handing out surveys to people as they're leaving the ships. What we found via that mechanism we got a lot better quality data and got really good data.
So I think that kind of illustrates a couple of things. I think it illustrates the importance of just trying to understand there's different ways in which you could deliver a survey to staff in an organisation and it's a matter of trying to find a way, a delivery mechanism that's going to actually work in your context and which is going to give you decent quality data back.
In terms of the measures, the way we're trying to measure this kind of stuff, so the safety culture measure that we've recently developed is really based around this concept of it's got a maturity model of safety culture which is essentially that ladder that Maria was talking about. So essentially the idea is you can think about there's different levels of maturity of safety culture. Down at the bottom end of the ladder if you like there's what we call a 'pathological' safety culture which is really a culture in which the organisation doesn't care about safety. It's not effectively controlling or mitigating risks and hazards. Basically it's trying to sweep stuff under the carpet. So it's not compliant with the minimum legislative requirements.
At the middle of the hierarchy or the ladder there's what we call a 'bureaucratic' safety culture and this is probably what we see in industry most commonly. So it's a compliance based approach to safety. So there's a legislative requirement to manage safety, to manage risks and hazards, to have safety management systems in place. So a lot of organisations take a bureaucratic approach to doing that, to meeting that legislative requirement. So it's basically having a safety management system that sits in a great big manual on the shelf and you can show that yes, you comply with the minimum requirement of the legislation but it's not actually used effectively.
What we call a 'generative' safety culture is what we are aspiring to which is really safety is a core value of the organisation. It's really the way the organisation goes about doing its business. So a generative safety culture isn't just based around compliance with rules and procedures. Instead what an organisation with generative safety culture tends to have is much more flexible procedures, possibly more generally written procedures rather than very prescriptive rules and procedures. Instead you see people given a lot more autonomy and flexibility to make decisions for themselves and safety is something that they've internalised as a value. So it's really – so people take safety into account systematically when they're doing their job and they're accountable for what they do.
To give you some sort of idea about how you can sort of measure that kind of thing in a survey or in an audit - you could use this as an auditing tool as well. So what we've done is to identify a range of different dimensions against which we assess maturity of safety culture. So what I've got here is say for example, investigation reporting and analysis is one part of a safety management system. Any organisation has to have systems for doing this kind of stuff.
A pathological version of that is down in the red, down in the bottom of the scale. So something like incidents aren't reported, investigations only take place after serious accidents and really it's about scapegoating. The investigation is focused on trying to find somebody to blame. The compliant version or the bureaucratic version is really around so there's some system there for reporting incidents and accidents but it's there because it's a compliance requirement and it's not really used effectively. The reports aren't acted on. They're not necessarily taken seriously. The data isn't analysed systematically.
The generative version is the good one. That's where clearly everyone in the organisation takes reporting seriously. So hazards get reported before incidents are occurring. So it's proactive. The reports are acted on. The data from investigation reporting and analysis systems is used, it's analysed, it's used and the focus is really on learning how we do things better. So it's really a proactive approach to this kind of stuff rather than a reactive approach.
So in terms of the results, what we've found in the maritime industry, so when we survey the senior officers on board the ships and basically we're asking them about the priorities, what are their key performance indicators, what are the operational priorities in the company. Then we survey the crew in terms of their perceptions of the safety culture, what we find is that operators – the captains on the vessels say 'The operators are actually concerned with the welfare of the people in the organisation', then the crew on board those ships are reporting a more mature safety culture. When the captains on board the vessels are saying 'There's a strong focus on cost minimisation in the company and it's all about maintaining the schedule' then the crew are telling us that there's a less mature safety culture on board the vessel.
When the crew are saying 'There is a mature safety culture' then what you find is there's greater levels of what we call social and human capital. So that's really around trust, support and engagement. So there's greater levels of mutual trust between management and employees. Management report that they trust their employees to do the right thing. Employees report that they trust management to look after their interest. There's greater feelings of mutual support and employees are engaged in safety and you see more positive outcomes that people are complying with greater levels of compliance, with safety procedures, greater levels of participation in safety activities, people doing those voluntary types of activities that enhance the safety of their workplace even if it's not part of their formal role. There's greater levels of mental health and wellbeing amongst the crew.
When there's a less mature safety culture generally what we see is poorer risk management. So crew report greater exposure to physical hazards. You see more problems with technology and resources. So the type of technology and equipment that people are using might not be fit for purpose. People don't always have access to the resources they need to do their jobs effectively. There's greater level of pressure, operational uncertainty and work pressure, higher levels of workload, higher levels of fatigue and poorer situation awareness. In turn those tend to predict higher levels of violations of safety procedures, greater injury rates and poorer mental health.
In terms of what you could actually do with the results of a survey like that, so there's a number of things you can actually do to try to improve the safety culture in these types of settings. So we've got some examples up here. Obviously you can look at trying to reengineer those safety systems to make them more proactive. So looking at your safety management system and trying to shift that safety management system away from being reactive to being proactive. So that's all about trying to improve the quality of the data that's being collected, the way that data's been analysed and using that data to identify and control risks and hazards before they emerge rather than waiting for accidents and incidents to occur and then revising rules on a reactive basis to plug holes.
Flexibility and adaptability I think is really important. So you can't control – you can't manage risks and hazards just by rules. You can't write a rule or a procedure to cover every potential eventuality. I went to a maritime safety conference recently and there was someone from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau gave a really interesting analysis of a fatality that occurred at sea, somebody being swept overboard where the people had complied with the rules and the safety. It was the compliance with the rules that killed them because the reason is of course that the rules were not designed – the rules and procedures weren't designed well in the first place.
A lot of organisations when problems with rules and procedures occur you tend to see them, well you just try to plug the gap and you see the rules becoming more complicated, more rigid, more inflexible and more prescriptive over time. We argue for the opposite, that rules should be designed in a way that are flexible, that are adaptable and people should have the skills and the training to be able to make decisions for themselves in order to work safely.
That ties into the point about autonomy. I think autonomy is really important. People need to have the autonomy to make the decisions for themselves. Where there are risks and hazards that affect their safety they need to be able to make decisions about them. So in the maritime domain a classic example of that is really around say the scheduling problem.
So in principle the captain of a ship is meant to have control over anything that could affect the safety of the ship but in principle they don't have the autonomy to make decisions that could result in the ship being delayed. They've always got to report back to higher management. They can't make the decision themselves. I think in terms of managing risks in hazards in that case that's an example where the captain really needs to give the autonomy to make that call himself or herself in order to protect the safety of the vessel.
Ensuring people understand safety risks is important and another thing, ensuring safety is framed as a positive outcome rather than a negative outcome. In safety we're not just trying to prevent risks and hazards. We're not just trying to prevent accidents and injuries. Safety is a positive outcome that we're trying to achieve rather than just a negative outcome that we're trying to prevent.
Great. Thanks Andrew. Great to hear some practical research and how it's been translated into real changes. Now Brian you've been very patient and thank you for coming along today. What we're really keen to hear from you of course is what has CV Services done in actually putting some of this stuff into play?
Yeah so we've been doing this for a number of years now and I think looking at some of the criteria, we do have a fairly mature safety system. Our safety vision for years has always been to have a totally healthy workforce with zero injuries. That is obviously utopia unfortunately as it doesn't seem to be the standard out in the general workplace these days.
We did identify a number of areas where performance needed to be improved and that's not just because we had to. There were moral obligations around that as well as legal and we looked at a holistic strategy. So we had a look at everything. What would we do about team engagement, improving our safety culture as we've gone through what a safety culture is. To us it had to be real and it had to be measurable. There was just no two ways about that.
So with that we've gone on to put programs in place that actually add value. We'll just go back one. Okay thanks.
A lot of time what we found people generally won't do something unless they can see that value is added to that. So we need to make sure that that's always there. What we looked at there, initially when we started this whole process, we went through to identify and get the basics right. That was in line with the Work Safe Stay Safe logo through Workplace Health and Safety and it was basically just a situation getting people to understand that if you follow the safe work system you will be safe. You have to trust the system in place. Now we just heard that sometimes that system isn't perfect and unfortunately you have to start with a system in place. That's where you can then improve it further on.
We worked on from that and making the message more relevant and emotive. We moved onto the Work Safe Home Safe when that was changed as well and being more emotive, that's also about why do you work safe? We have a reason. What we instituted then, we did a whole lot of – a whole range of things that we did. One of them was around the Safe Work Week or Safe Work Month a couple of years ago. Photographing competitions. We got guys to bring in photographs or send in photographs of their reason for working safe and going home. Obviously family members, the dog in the back yard etc, but everybody had a different reason for working safe and going home safely.
From there we matured a little bit more and we looked at the personal responsibility of the individual. We moved our badging across to the Think Safe Act Safe logo and at the end of the day it is about the personal responsibility of the individual. With that training is absolutely key. You cannot do this without training. Initially we obviously got the buy in from senior managers. We're very fortunate that in our business the owners of the business were absolutely on board with this from day one. So we didn't have to do any convincing. The senior management and project managers, a lot of training went through that around leadership and those sort of skills. That's been run out now to supervisors, to tradesmen, even down to our senior apprentices to get that going as a holistic training module right through the business.
Over and above that we also integrated a wellness program within our business. So this was more now getting to the people, giving them something that they could see was real value. It started off with we said we wanted to have a Stay Fit program and we did a badging on it so that once again people would recognise it and could move towards something. It started off with our Back Fit Stay Fit program about three years ago and this was a direct result of us having a look at manual handling injuries, not only within our workforce but in industry as a whole.
We called in the Spine Institute of Australia and got their presenters to come in. These are guys that have been through horrific accidents in the workplace. Every single one of our members of staff was at a meeting at some stage over a two month period and saw this presentation which was really, really powerful. There was not one person that walked out of those thinking that there wasn't a message to be had.
We moved onto that a little bit later with our Eat Fit Stay Fit which is all about the nutrition. The age old tradie's breakfast of the V and a pie – we gave the guys a lot of tips. We came up with menu cards. There was a lot of range of things that we did there as well. We're moving on at the moment. We're going through the Think Fit Stay Fit which is more about mental wellbeing and also the Be Fit Stay Fit which is our physical fitness. So this program's been run out over the last three years and specifically staged so that we could concentrate on each one and build on it before we went onto the next one.
Probably one of the keys to the success of any of the programs we do is consistent implementation. It is about the consistency. You can't just put something out there and expect people to do it and then not revisit. Traditionally in the construction industry a lot of lagging indicators are used. That's just the way they report. But we also saw that it was a lot more informative to get as many lead indicators as possible.
So if we have a look at the items we've listed there through the consultation process we have a safety forum and team member feedback. That is consistent. That's right throughout the business 365 days of the year. Our promotion and awareness is all about our Safe Work Week each year which we do a lot of work there. We have internal badging which we've gone through already and we have monthly toolbox talks. Now these are safety topics sent through from the HSE team every month. We look at that. We look at the percentage attendance of those. There are criteria that the general managers are expected to perform to but we also see how many people are looking at the message and how well it's getting out there.
On the innovation sides we've moved over onto online HSE inductions which has made it a lot simpler and easier to deliver, a lot more consistent and also we've introduced a number of apps on our mobile phones that are our own in-house apps. So for example we've got a safety observation app which we probably get about 100 of those a month through all our project managers and supervisors. Very simple to use. We have a hazard identification app. So any hazard can be sent through immediately via a phone. We also have an incident alert app. So if there is an incident, the alert comes through from the field. We now have – our record is our TOs reacted within two and a half minutes of an incident. So it's all about getting that information up to the HSE team and the Director of the business so we can then act appropriately.
From a compliance side, once again the safety observations form part of that. We also have safety and compliance assessments. Being a trade orientated business that's very, very important for our customers as well as from our legal obligations. We also have developed something we call our Electrical Safety and Compliance Manual. Virtually every electrical contracting business has all this information but when you look at it, it's spread across safety, training, quality etc. We've actually pulled that together into one manual which transcends all those different areas, a very simple tool for our guys to use.
The last slide I've got you to talk to is we're talking about making it measurable. We've always said that if you can't measure it you can't report on it. Some of the industry programs I've seen some questions coming through which will be answered, people are asking 'Well how do we get this information?' There are a number of areas witch the answer will come through later with the emails etc, but you have to understand that you still have to personalise those to your business. In our instance we measured across five business units. We've got five separate businesses in our group – three electrical and two signage – and there's a number of different indicators we use. We also break that down into smaller areas so we can have a look at teams.
The other thing one has to look at is the number of items that you record as opposed to the quality of what they give you. A lot of businesses will just say 'Yes we need 100 observations' but the quality is rubbish. Twenty very good quality observations would give you a far better result. Just having a look at some of our results over the last few years, I don't really like looking at the lagging ones because as I say we look at the leading ones more often. But from a lagging one it's always good to get a bit of a report card. But some of the big ticket items – our injuries have decreased by around about 92 per cent over the last few years. The severity of injuries over 80 per cent, our return to work has been 100 per cent for a number of years now. We've never had anybody not return to work. Over the last five or six years we've almost doubled the number of hours that the businesses have worked. So in the same period we've cut a lot of those items quite drastically.
Probably two of the biggest indicators that make it worthwhile is when we look at our staff satisfaction reports we get over an 85 per cent result on that. The big ticket item in there is our staff members regard CV Services as a very safe place to work, coming in at a number over 95 per cent as a response.
So yeah, that's how we've done it. It's worked pretty well for us and it's very nice that we have actually used a number of the principles that have been put forward today, sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident. But yeah it's been quite a journey.
I appreciate you going through that Brian and being open with what your company has done and achieved. Also great to see some of the examples of those measures and actually tracking 'Has this initiative worked?' and 'How can we realign things moving forward?'
So people told me it was ambitious to have four different speakers today and we have gone slightly over time. So thanks very much for your patience. I appreciate you holding on. Unfortunately it does mean we're pretty limited in terms of our opportunities for Q&A but if you did have anything shoot it through. We'll make sure that we get some responses from our presenters if they need to answer those questions and put those along with the resources.
But I just wanted to touch on a couple. So we mentioned benchmarking a lot during the presentation and so naturally there were some questions there around 'Well how do we actually get access to that benchmarking information?'
It is a tricky one. We are working on it here at Workplace Health and Safety with our Safety Culture Leadership Toolkit. So the vision for that is we would be able to start collecting industry level benchmarking data and have that freely available. That's a bit of a pipe dream at the moment. So we're working on that and hopefully that will come through maybe next year or the year after.
What you can do in the meantime though is go into perhaps Google Scholar or if you have access to different databases that have research studies in safety, pull down some of the articles where they have used safety climate questionnaires. Maybe you could even get some measures out of that, that you could use in your organisation and use the information that they publish there around different industries, different companies and what types of averages or means are they getting on their surveys. So that's a couple of sources of inspiration there.
So again thanks very much for coming along.
We will get to those questions that other people have submitted and post those online for you. Just to mention the resource pack, there's quite a few things that we have bundled up with this webinar series just to make sure you can apply what you've learned and start putting it into practice. So as I mentioned we've got those recordings that will go up quite soon. The Q&A will be out shortly as well. I guess to summarise some of the participants' achievements today we've developed some case studies too. So what Brian went through and also what Maria's described you'll be able to download a really detailed overview of what they achieved and how they did it for future reference.
Other things that are associated with that resource kit – so clarifying safety culture and climate. We've got an article there to sort of go through the foundational concepts as well as two practical guides. So how would you actually choose a safety climate tool, looking at validity and reliability for example and also an example process. So how do you get the most out of that survey, what kind of administration training should you give and what steps should you follow? So please do check those out.
Right. So thanks for joining us across the series. We hope you've been able to take something away from it. We have tried to achieve those two goals of clarifying what the concepts are and then hopefully today making it a bit more practical in terms of how would you actually go about measuring these things and making improvements.
So on behalf of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland thank you so much for joining us. Thank you also to our presenters today for taking the time out and everyone across the different series. So look forward to some more events in quarter three and quarter four of this year.
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Additional webinars on safety culture and climate
- Last updated
- 10 December 2019