MySafetySign.com’s second annual Health and Safety Industry Survey had a heavy emphasis on company culture issues. The 2015 survey asked with whom safety responsibility lies, where the problems begin and how to resolve safety issues that occur on worksites.
The good news is that of the 459 respondents who are responsible for health and safety practices within their organizations, 90 percent indicated that their senior management considered safety important to their organizations. The top three factors for motivating health and safety practices were management commitment, safety culture and workforce participation. Construction safety professionals comprised 13 percent of the survey participants, with 27 percent working in manufacturing, 10 percent in health services, and the remainder in other industries.
The survey found that senior leadership demonstrated its commitment to health and safety through training and induction (60 percent), regular staff meetings (49 percent) and formal organizational communications (44 percent). When asked which skills they sought more training in, professionals said “persuasion and influence,” “people management” and “culture change/creation.” “Understanding systems” garnered the fewest responses.
The survey identified the top workplace barriers to implementing health and safety practices, which were worker attitudes (51 percent), lack of understanding from staff about problems and risks (36 percent), lack of involvement in safety responsibilities by workers (33 percent), organizational resistance to change (33 percent) and overall lack of safety culture (32 percent).
Only 14 percent of respondents considered incentives and/or bonuses a motivating factor for health and safety, but incentives were still considered more effective than punitive or a blend of punitive and non-punitive approaches. Smaller companies were more supportive of incentives. Forty-one percent of respondents believe workers should be responsible for OSHA fines when personally responsible for a safety violation.
Respondents tended to have a low opinion of millennials, calling them challenging to work with, less concerned with safety and easily distracted. However, millennials were considered better with technology than other workers. Temporary workers were also viewed as liabilities to health and safety.
When asked how they rated OSHA’s or their state’s safety and health agency’s performance in inspections and enforcement, only four percent of respondents in construction rated OSHA as below average. Nearly half (48 percent) of construction safety professionals believed that OSHA’s proposed update to silica standards would have a positive impact on health and safety.
The assumption that safety problems are worker problems rather than management, organizational, systemic or cultural problems is a time-honored, but overly simplistic and misguided viewpoint. The worker-as-barrier perspective could also reflect a largely discredited “blame the worker” approach to safety. The bulk of modern safety thought has come to see unsafe behavior as a symptom of system weaknesses, not as a root cause.
The 2015 Health and Safety Industry Survey questions the many factors driving workplace culture, including whether safety culture responsibility lies with individuals or the company as a whole. The survey concluded that safety professionals are confident in the ability of management to drive a healthy workplace safety culture. However, the same professionals continue to view staff as a barrier to safety.