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June 17, 2020

National safety month: Check your safety lens with a safety perception survey

Sean Antolik

The National Safety Council (NSC) and other organizations across the country raise safety awareness every June for National Safety Month with a goal of reducing leading causes of injury and death at work, on the road as well as in our homes and communities. Given the current state of the world, this month will look a little different from past years. Instead of focusing on a single topic each week, NSC will provide real-time, relevant resources on a variety of topics for keeping workers safe in our new normal. Follow this link for more information from the National Safety Council.

Here at MMA we would like to shine the spotlight on a powerful tool that employers can utilize to engage their employees and identify the strengths and weaknesses of their overall safety program.

Check Your Safety Lens – Safety Perception Surveys

We all see through our own safety lenses. Similar to cultural lenses, our view of the world is limited by our personal experiences and perception. Therefore, if we want to understand more about an individual, specific work group, or the organization as a whole then it is paramount to define safety and shine light on our blinds spots.

One way to improve your safety culture and shine light on your blind spots is to engage employees in the safety discussion early on with a safety perception survey. By engaging your employees, you are letting them know that they have responsibility and ownership over “their” safety program; and that it is not the organization’s safety program.

By soliciting feedback from employees, a survey can provide the information and insight necessary to address issues identified by the survey questions, foster employee engagement and help to kick-start the change towards a stronger safety culture.

“Companies that have a strong safety culture often obtain their most effective program improvement information from their front line employees. An effective safety perception survey can help solicit that information.” –John Bestman, MMA Construction Safety Consultant, CSP 

Benefits of performing a perception survey

A safety perception survey is grounded in the understanding that what people believe, and how they behave, are directly related to one another. A properly executed survey can provide a quantitative measure of how employees feel about current safety policies and procedures, and provides them an opportunity to share their recommendations for improvement and opinions. This tool can provide a road map for program development and can provide insight to what employees believe, and if there are any areas of improvement management can focus on.

Safety perception surveys can:

  • Build trust with employees by allowing them the opportunity to be heard and valued.
  • Provide a more accurate measurement by combining worker experience with management’s observation.
  • Provide the road map for program development. Survey questions lead to actionable items that have come directly from employees, which can provide valuable insight for reaching productivity and safety goals concurrently.

Common problems with perception surveys

One of the worst things to do with a safety perception survey is to conduct the survey and not follow up with your action items after the survey. Employees want to know that they were heard and that you are taking steps to correct the issues you inquired about within the survey.

Here are just a few key points to ensure an accurate and successful perception survey:

  • Share the results with employees early on, skipping this step can lead to a lack of trust.
  • Ensure that all employees and job classifications participate in the survey to identify perception gaps.
  • Keep it simple, but not too simple. If it is too complex, or time-consuming participation rates may decline. If too brief, you may not collect enough information to form actionable items. Ideally, the survey should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
  • Keep it anonymous. Some employees may find it easier to be honest without the fear of reprisal.
  • Give yourself enough time to develop and execute the survey, a survey that is put together hastily, not well developed, or not fully executed can do more harm than good.

For help developing and executing a safety perception survey for your organization reach out to your MMA Safety Consultant, or the safety team inbox.