This is the second in a series of posts discussing the DuPont Safety Perception Survey and its use in measuring safety culture and safety performance. The first post in this series is: What Would a Safety Survey Reveal About YOUR Company?

Editor's note: Robert Krzywicki is an employee of DuPont. DuPont is a sponsor of Sustainable Business Forum.

At the start of our internal safety improvement effort in 2007, DuPont safety and consulting professionals examined results from the DuPont Safety Perception Survey – collected from dozens of organizations – to study how safety culture varied between the organizations with poor safety performance (by DuPont standards) and those with excellent performance. Using the OSHA Total Recordable Injury Rate as our measure of safety performance, we compared safety performance at DuPont, and results from our Safety Perception Survey, to the results of qualitative assessments conducted on-site by DuPont consultants.

 

To determine whether safety culture, as measured by the survey, is related to safety performance, using OSHA’s Total Recordable Injury Rate, we calculated a value we call Relative Culture Strength (RCS). This value is based on responses to all questions on every survey from a given organization. This allows us to compare Relative Culture Strength and OSHA Total Recordable Injury Rates from many different organizations to look for relationships.

Who Is Surveyed?

Our dataset consisted of over 169,000 survey respondents from 41 companies and more than 1,100 locations. More than 31,000 surveys were from outside North America, including over 24,000 from Canada. The survey, conducted from 2002 through 2011, included 10 primary industries: aircraft manufacturing, chemicals, electric utilities, engineering/construction, food, mining, oil refining, paper, steel and transportation. We then split the data into 346 “organizations,” which we defined as the smallest entity for which we had safety performance data. This was either 1) a site facility within a company; 2) a business, geographic or functional division within a company; or 3) an entire company. The number of survey respondents per organization ranged from 30 to over 20,000, with a median of 489 respondents.

For the purposes of the survey we used an average of the OSHA Total Recordable Injury Rates from the three consecutive years prior to the survey to represent the safety performance of an organization. 

The Results

We compared the three-year average Total Recordable Injury Rate to the overall RCS and found that in general, greater cultural strength correlates to a lower injury rate. Figure 1 represents this relationship. 

Figure 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 1.  3-Year Total Recordable Injury Rate vs. Overall Relative Culture Strength

DuPont also observed that between an overall RCS of 40 and 80, the three-year Total Recordable Injury Rate varied widely. To provide a different perspective, we divided the data into four groups according to overall RCS (Figure 2 below). We found that groups with a greater RCS had a lower Total Recordable Injury Rate and a “tighter” injury rate distribution. Both the median and mean injury rates decreased as a group’s overall RCS increased.   

 

 

Weak

Average

Good

World-class

Overall Relative Culture Strength

<40

40-60

60-80

>80

Number of Organizations

19

57

164

106

3-Year Total Recordable Injury Rate

 

 

 

 

Mean

4.6

2.7

1.1

0.61

Standard Deviation

3.6

1.9

1.4

0.84

First Quartile

1.4

1.3

0.3

0.00

Median

3.5

2.3

0.8

0.32

Third Quartile

7.3

3.9

1.4

0.78

 

Figure 2.  Grouping by Overall Relative Culture Strength

DuPont also considered how the three elements of safety management – leadership, structure, and processes and action – may impact RCS. We hypothesized that leadership was the key dimension that enabled outstanding safety performance, and while our conclusions validated this, we also concluded that the other two dimensions are just as important to organizations that demonstrate outstanding performance.  

 

Figure 3 shows the similarities when calculating RCS for each of the dimensions. We consider an organization to have a world-class safety culture when the RCS for each of the three dimensions is greater than 80.

 

Figure 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 3. Relative Culture Strength by Element

 

What Does All This Mean?

Based on our experience, we believe that when an organization has a weaker safety culture, it may “get lucky” and have one or more years of relatively good safety performance. Overall, however, good performance is less sustainable than in an organization with a stronger safety culture. Organizations with good safety performance but a weak safety culture are at larger risk of experiencing a higher injury rate in the future than are organizations with a strong safety culture. The first step for many organizations looking to strengthen their safety culture is to use the survey to benchmark where they are now and where they would like to be. This will be the topic of our next post.

 

To read the Relative Culture Strength white paper in its entirety please click here.