Unlike safety culture, which can mean many different things, safety climate is tangible, according to the authors. "It can be measured and the data obtained through surveys can identify significant discrepancies between a company's safety message and its actual safety practices."
As an example, the authors described a scenario in which a company with a policy prohibiting cellphone use while driving has supervisors who routinely call their drivers. "That would show up as a discrepancy in a safety climate survey," said James Houlihan, Loss Control Advisory Services technical director for Liberty Mutual. "Once brought out into the light, this problem could be addressed appropriately."
The findings were published in the latest edition of the institute's Research to Reality publication.
Many studies have examined the link between safety climate and accident/injury outcomes among on-site workers. The institute's is believed to be among the first to look at the relationship as it applies to remote workers.
The researchers specifically looked at long-haul drivers for several national trucking companies and workers at two utility companies. More than 10,000 lone and remote workers were included.
"Both types of workers lack direct supervisory interaction and often encounter time constraints, weather, speed limits, and traffic conditions, all of which can take precedence over safety," said Emily Huang, the study's principal investigator. "Our study examined whether workers in lone and remote work situations develop a sense of the employers' true safety priorities, and if so, whether these perceptions ultimately link to safety behaviors and injury outcomes."
The researchers compared the results of a safety climate survey with real-world, safety performance data -- injury frequency and severity -- to see if a link exists between drivers' perceptions of the company's safety climate and their actual safety performance.
"When the researchers compared the survey data with the objective data, they found a significant association between workplace safety climate and safety outcomes," the study says. "We now know that even though truck drivers work alone, they develop a sense of the true safety priorities of their companies and their perceptions can be used to predict future safety outcomes . . . This finding suggests a great potential for helping companies develop effective interventions."
The authors said the data suggests lone workers' perceptions of safety climate are reflective of top-level management messages. Among the truck drivers, the safety messages from upper management are aligned with actual safety practices. Among utility workers, there was also a significant association suggested between safety climate and safety performance.
"The findings from this study provide real evidence that safety climate can be measured effectively and used to predict injury outcomes, even among those who work alone, away from peers and supervisors," said David Melton, Liberty International's managing director of Global Road Safety, who served as an advisor to the researchers. "This is powerful and actionable information that should help convince companies to take proactive measures to correct a negative safety climate, rather than just reacting when injuries occur."
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
February 6, 2012
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