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How To Plan a Successful Safety Climate Survey

Posted by Robert O'Neill on Jul 7, 2016 3:17:19 PM
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services-1600x400.jpgUnderstand What You Want to Achieve:

Do you want to improve, benchmark your organisation against others, or evaluate the impact of change initiatives? At the outset, you need to consider why you are carrying out the survey, what you hope to achieve and how the information gathered will help meet your goals.

It's No Surprise!

Companies are generally never surprised by the results, as managers tend to understand their problems but want help in making improvements.

Avoid Holidays

Avoid holidays (Christmas, Easter etc.) and periods of organisational change (e.g. reduction in staff numbers, restructuring) when running a safety climate survey, as these will influence response rates.

Secure Senior Management Commitment

Senior management must be committed to the survey and provide resources for the survey and resulting actions. Everyone needs to be made aware of this commitment, for example, through staff briefings.

Secure Supervisor and Employee Rep Support

Supervisors' and employee representatives' support should be obtained: they are central to engaging the workforce. The attitudes of supervisors influence staff attitudes and behaviours; if supervisors do not convey the message that it is important to participate in the survey, staff are unlikely to co-operate.

Paper or Web

Decide whether a paper-based or web survey is the best fit for your organisation - or use both.

Ask Why?

Following the survey ask the "Why?" questions to try and bring about change, for example, why don't you follow procedures. Understanding this will inform the development of action plans and guide improvements.

Planning to Run Your Survey

1. Briefing your staff - including the purpose and reasons for the survey, and information on the process:

  • Why the survey is being done;
  • Why participation is important;
  • What will happen following the survey completion;
  • If the reasons are clear and well-communicated people are more likely to participate;
  • Provide deadlines that allow sufficient time to respond;
  • When feedback on the findings will be provided;
  • Assure the anonymity and confidentiality of survey responses. People are less likely to complete the questionnaire if they believe their responses are identifiable.

2. Managing the survey process – activities may include:

  • Set goals and objectives for assessing safety culture;
  • Issue notices and reminders about the survey;
  • Distribute the survey and collect responses;
  • Organise data entry;
  • Generate charts and an auto report;
  • Communicate and brief out the findings;
  • Nominate an individual or small team to lead and manage the survey process. It is important that they are committed and enthusiastic about the survey.

3. Completing the survey

  • Give people work time to complete the survey, for example in team briefings. Distribute and collect the questionnaires during this time;
  • Encourage staff to participate and highlight the importance of their views to the organisation. If people feel under pressure to complete the survey they may not respond in truthfully which compromises the usefulness of the findings;
  • Be aware that off-site or shift working will affect the timescale for completing and returning the questionnaire.

4. Boosting response rates - a low response rate means the results are not valid and can raise doubts as to how representative the findings are. To boost responses:

  • Lay the groundwork - planning and briefing have the strongest impact on response rates;
  • Reiterate anonymity and/or confidentiality. If anonymity cannot be guaranteed, provide information as to how you will ensure responses remain confidential and who will have access to the data;
  • Issue reminders - at least one and preferably two reminders should be sent. Include response rate to motivate participation. Give the survey deadline, reinforce the importance of participation and repeat assurances of confidentiality and/or anonymity of responses;
  • People are more likely to participate if emails or letters are addressed to them personally;
  • Incentives can increase participation. However, the incentive needs to be acceptable to your organisation, for example, a charitable donation based on the % response targets.

5. Providing feedback on the findings

  • Try to provide feedback by your published timescales. Following up with staff makes them feel actively involved and that their opinion matters, they are then more likely to participate in the next survey.
  • Don’t overload people with information – a survey can produce a lot of charts. Identify the key messages and present them in a meaningful way. Ensure the headline findings are representative of the bigger picture to avoid potential accusations of ‘doctoring’ or masking findings.
  • Thank people for their participation.
  • Ask senior management to lead the communication of findings. For example, make managers responsible for communicating their findings downwards.

6. Developing actions

  • Make it clear to staff that action will be taken to address the headline.
  • Encourage employee participation in developing actions to tackle the issues identified by the survey. This will lead to improvements and enhance employees’ ownership of solutions.

More Information

Find out more about our services and how we can help you measure and improve the safety culture of your workplace with the Safety Climate Tool. 

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Topics: Safety Culture