Having a strong health and safety culture in your organisation

4 July 2017

Do you have a strong health and safety culture in your organisation?

The initial results are in… Safe365 co-founder and people and culture expert Mark Kidd presents the first aggregated results from the Safe365 Health and Safety Culture and Performance tool to whet your appetite…



Safe365 invited several of its clients to undertake a health and safety culture and performance survey designed by 12 internationally recognised experts. The survey consists of 30 key questions or “leading indicators” for determining the extent to which an organisation demonstrates the appropriate behaviours necessary to ensure effective health and safety performance underpinned by a robust health and safety culture.


The survey delivered insights based on overall engagement and performance, section by section summary across Safe365’s 5 pillar behavioural model and analysis and comparisons across 5 key stakeholder personas - The Board, Executive Team, Management, Staff and 3rd party Contractors, allowing Safe365 and the respective organisation to identify potential ‘blind spots’ and ‘hidden talents’ in each of the participating organisations across the 30 key health and safety behavioural competencies. As with Safe365’s very popular self-assessment product, the resulting aggregated information from the 360 product is now being used to enable Safe365’s client organisations to benchmark themselves against the market.


As part of this exercise, each of the participating organisations received their own personalised health and safety culture report allowing them to identify their relative strengths and weaknesses within their workplace and to focus them their efforts on the key health and safety development areas applicable to their organisation. This report also allowed the organisations to identify any alignment issues between the various stakeholder groups and potential ‘hot spots’ for the organisation to focus their time, money and energy on creating a safer place to work for their staff and contractors.


While the results of each specific health and safety culture survey remain private and confidential to each of the participating organisations, Safe365 has been able to aggregate the results and share these with the market.


The aggregated overall results are as follows…


  1. Participation Rate

 The industry standard for acceptable levels of participation in surveys of this nature is approximately 60%+. A participation rate below this figure is usually associated with organisations exhibiting some degree of apathy, disengagement or feeling within the responding participants that nothing will change as a result of the survey being completed.

The overall participation rate from participating organisations in the Safe365 health and safety culture survey was 52.34%. Just over half of the people asked to respond to the survey took the opportunity to do so. The interesting finding from our research is that the participation rate between each of the participating organisations varied considerably from as low as 22.6% in one organisation through to 85% in another, indicating quite diverse levels of workforce engagement across the organisations involved.

Most notably, the organisation with the highest participation rate also had the highest culture index score across the participating organisations. This supports the notion that higher levels of workforce engagement is directly linked to increased organisational health and safety cultural and behavioural maturity and effectiveness. Further, anecdotal evidence would also indicate that the number of incidents, accidents and near misses was almost non-existent in the organisation with the strongest engagement and cultural maturity scores.


  1. Culture Survey Index

 As with Safe365’s organisational capability ‘self-assessment’ product, Safe365 have developed a quantitative index to assist organisations with quickly and easily understanding the insights being presented by the 360, multi-rater, multi persona data the survey tool provides.


The average aggregated culture index for all participating organisations was 76%. The interesting aspect of this is that there was significant variance between each of the participating organisations. The lowest score of participating organisations on the Safe365 health and safety culture index with 71% through to 81% at the mature end. When the culture index score is read in conjunction with the participation rate, the story becomes very clear. Low participation rates aligned to lower, more unstable overall culture scores vs high participation rates which aligned to higher, more stable levels of culture maturity.


  1. Most positively rated questions

 Across the participating organisations there were several key health and safety leading indicators that scored the highest in terms of their positive rating by all stakeholders. The top 6 were:

1. 98.11% of respondents felt that leaders were fair, reasonable and consistent in responding to health and safety events.
2. 98.08% of respondents felt that communications on health and safety were clear and relevant to their job.
3. 98.08% of respondents felt that incident (accidents, near miss) investigations and learning/actions were shared with workers and relevant parties.
4. 96.23% of respondents felt that leaders considered health and safety in their business planning and decision making.
5. 96.15% of respondents felt that leaders encouraged employees to speak openly, raise issues, and encourage employees to participate in resolving health and safety issues.
6. 96.08% of respondents felt that they were involved in improving their health and safety.

4. Most negatively rated questions

Across the participating organisations there were several key health and safety leading indicators that scored the lowest in terms of their negative rating by all stakeholders. The bottom 6 were:

1. 25.49% of respondents felt that organisational and personal KPI’s and measures were not used to drive health and safety behaviours.
2. 19.69% of respondents felt that health and safety wasn’t the most important priority in their minds when completing tasks at work.
3. 15.09% of respondents felt that leaders didn’t actively seek feedback or were open to modifying their approach to health and safety.
4. 14.00% of respondents felt that they weren’t notified of actions taken and implemented to address the health and safety concerns they raised.
5. 13.46% of respondents felt that their organisation did not ensure that staff had the resources to get the job done safely.

Note that the findings on an ‘organisation by organisation’ basis varied considerably between each of the participating organisations with certain behavioural culture indicators being stronger in one organisation compared to another. This highlighted the need for each organisation to undertake their own health and safety culture survey, establish a baseline culture index score (internal benchmark) and work to improve this sustainably over time with appropriate interventions which are provided within Safe365’s suite of tools, resources and guidance.

  1. Headline Observations

There are several observations to be made from the Safe365 health and safety culture survey.

  1. There was significant variance between organisations and their workforces’ desire to participate in this type of survey. Several organisations in the Safe365 culture survey had a response rate below 60% - the lower the participation rate the more obvious is the concern as to whether health and safety is being taken seriously in the organisation. The greater the level of apathy within the workforce the higher the level of workplace incidents, accidents and near misses. Key insight: Do you have a sense of workforce engagement on health and safety matters in your organisation? Has it been measured recently?


  1. Board Directors and Executive Teams consistently rated their response to the culture survey questions higher than any of the other stakeholder groups. There appears to be an inherent ‘executive bias’ within these two groups in favorably viewing their health and safety capability and culture vs what their workforce believes. In testing this notion with participating organisations, there may be due cause for concern around information flows, both positive and negative, being filtered through to governance level on a ‘no bad news’ basis creating an unrealistic view of the organisation’s health and safety capability and culture. Key insight: As a board member or executive, do you have a true sense of reality regarding your organisations health and safety culture or could the executive bias be at play?


  1. The one exception where Board Directors and Executive teams where universally in agreement was around the use of organisational and personal KPI’s to drive healthy and safe behaviours and whether health and safety was the most important priority in a person’s mind when completing tasks at work. Generally speaking the Board and Executive Teams saw these as relative weaknesses with the respective organisations. Key Insight: Does your organisation drive healthy and safe behaviours through organisational and personal KPI’s?


  1. Management, and to a greater extent staff, seem to be more at odds with how the Board and Executive Teams view health and safety in the workplace. There is definitely a stronger bias with the Board and Executive Teams seeing health and safety more positively than management and staff. This would suggest that some ‘blind spots’ exist between how senior executives and governance view the performance of health and safety capability and culture compared to those at the operations level. There would appear to be a definite disconnect between these stakeholder groups on how they see health and safety performance and behaviour in the workplace with management and more so, staff seeing it less favorably. Key Insight: How aligned are perceptions around health and safety culture and performance across the different levels in your organisation?


  1. 3rd party contractors were the most surprising result in the survey as they consistently scored positively when rating their responses to the survey across all organisations. Their results were more closely aligned to the Board and Executive’s view on health and safety capability and culture. In testing this finding with the participating organisations, Safe365 discovered that the stakeholder group of most concern to the participating organisation was the 3rd party contractor / supply chain and their level of competence in ensuring they were meeting their health and safety obligations. Yet interestingly the 3rd party contractors responded positively to all 30 questions in the survey. Several participating organisations suggested a very plausible reason for this with the inherent conflict of interest contractors have in having a commercial contract with the participating organisation and the need to be positive in their health and safety practices. This introduces the notion of a commercial bias when surveying 3rd party contractors regarding health and safety performance and culture. Some caution therefore needs to be exercised in reviewing results from 3rd party contractors in health and safety culture surveys given the inherent commercial bias. Other methodologies need to be used to gage the capability of 3rd party contractors in addition to using a culture survey. Key Insight: Do you have ongoing visibility of any third party contractor’s health and safety capability? Depending on the risk profile of the operations involved, have you got sufficient assurance over the 3rd party’s capability?


  1. To test this assumption further, Safe365 reviewed its capability assessment benchmark data from its 400+ client organisations to find that slightly over 80% of organisations score below the minimum acceptable level of health and safety capability required under legislation. This suggests, in many cases, the positive perception expressed through survey participation by 3rd party contractors may not be supported by their own health and safety capability status as measured through the Safe365 capability index. Key Insight: Ensure a blended methodology of both survey and capability assessment is used to measure third party health and safety capability and performance where strong assurance is required to manage overlapping PCBU responsibilities.


In summary, measuring health and safety capability and culture are critical steps in truly understanding “where an organisation is at”.  Safe365’s intelligent software is able to benchmark results against “what good looks like” and support clients with building capability and performance in the areas that need strengthening. As a result, clients are empowered to make the workplace safer ensuring fewer workers are harmed at work.


Naturally, the Safe365 health and safety culture & performance tool raises other significant findings that can be shared in confidential by contacting Safe365 Co-founder and people and culture expert Mark Kidd mark@safe365.co.nz.


For those organisations wanting to undertake their own confidential health and safety culture survey contact Mark or visit Safe365 www.safe365.co.nz.


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