Measuring Organizational Safety Culture

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Measuring Organizational Safety Culture


How does an organization assess safety culture? Before we tackle that question lets define safety culture. There are many definitions of safety culture but for the purpose of this discussion we will define safety culture as a “Collective values and norms an organization has regarding safety”, Terry Miller, National Safety Council.

Most safety professionals would agree to adequately assess an organization’s safety culture you must first develop a series of indicators to gauge performance. Those indicators should be a combination of both lagging and leading. To understand what those indicators are we must first understand the difference between lagging and leading indicators. A lagging indicator is a measure of past performance and trends after the fact and in many cases lagging indicators are considered measures of failure not success. Leading indicators are measures of future performance, management’s commitment or systems that drive performance change and are often viewed as indicators of true safety performance. “The use of leading indicators can help reduce injuries and incidents on the job for the identification of safety risk before they become problems, Kyle Morrison, National Safety Council.

Universal Indicators

Let's examine lagging and leading indicators we typically see in an organization. Starting with the lagging indicators, most organizations will track injury and illness data. Often injury and illness data is further divided into recordable and lost day frequency rates.

Although these indicators are considered to be lagging they provide valuable information to a safety professional. Past injury performance can be used to dev...

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From my experience deterioration of an organization’s safety culture is often subtle and goes unrecognized. Organizations should periodically assessed their safety culture to determine the true safety climate and ensure the organization is assessing the right safety indicators.

Work Cited

Manuele, Fred A. Advanced safety management: Focusing on Z 10 in Serious Injury Prevention. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2008

Blair, Earl, and Michael O’Toole. “Leading Measure.” Professional Safety, August 2010

Morrison, Kyle W. “The Measure of Safety.” Safety + Health, March 2010

Galloway, Shawn M. “Assessing Your Safety Culture in Seven Simple Steps.” EHS Today, April 2010

Baker Panel Commission, The Report of the BP US Refinery Independent Safety Review Panel, January 2007.
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