How Do You Measure Safety Climate?

Oil Refinery Engineer
October 24, 2019

“My temperature’s high, hell’s bells.”
~AC/DC – “Hell’s Bells”

Back in July, we published a Safetip about measuring your safety climate.

We also explained the difference between safety climate and safety culture. Here’s a great definition of safety climate from this factsheet:

“Safety climate is the perceived value placed on safety in an organization at a particular point in time. Therefore, we can think of safety climate as the ‘mood’ of an organization, based on what workers experience at a specific time.”

Safety climate is a snapshot of safety at one point in time. It can change quickly, sometimes even on a daily or weekly basis. For example, safety climate could be heightened after implementing a new safety procedure or after an injury.

You should measure your safety climate periodically to evaluate the strength of your safety culture. A Safeopedia article from Henry Skjerven explains the connection between the two:

“Taking a measure of your organization’s safety climate is a way to take the temperature of its safety culture. If the climate is positive, then the safety culture is probably strong. If it’s negative, you might need to take steps to foster a stronger culture of safety among your workforce and management.”

A Tool to Measure Safety Climate

But how exactly do you measure safety climate?

At the Inaugural Research and Innovation Summit hosted in August by the BCSP Foundation, Linda Goldenhar, Director, Evaluation and Research, at CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training, spoke about a tool that her organization developed a few years ago to measure safety climate.

Back in 2013, CPWR organized a safety climate and culture workshop for the construction industry, which led to the development of the Safety Climate Assessment Tool (S-CAT). The tool identifies the following eight leading indicators that are predictive of excellent workplace safety climate:

  1. Demonstrating management commitment
  2. Aligning and integrating safety as a value
  3. Ensuring accountability at all levels
  4. Improving supervisory leadership
  5. Empowering and involving employees
  6. Improving communication
  7. Training at all levels
  8. Encouraging owner/client involvement

In 2014, CPWR created worksheets that explain each of the eight leading indicators in depth. This allows safety professionals to assess their company’s safety climate maturity level and identify areas of improvement.

Safety professionals can rank safety climate maturity using a five-level scoring system: inattentive, reactive, compliant, proactive, or exemplary. Each worksheet contains detailed descriptions of each scoring level, ideas for intervention, and tips on how to prioritize action plan items.

The S-CAT breaks down each leading indicator into activities that safety professionals can rank with the same five-level scoring system. For example, leading indicator #5 (empowering and involving employees) has three component activities:

  1. Empowering employees to invest in safety for themselves and fellow coworkers.
  2. Seeking employee input on hazard reduction and safety improvement.
  3. Relying on employee-management committees to address safety and health concerns.

Detailed descriptions of what these activities look like in each of the five levels of maturity are also included. This helps to accurately assess the level of safety climate maturity.

Since the S-CAT was released in 2014 and updated in 2016, there have been over 5,000 downloads and over 5,000 responses in the S-CAT database with information from over 100 companies, mostly in the construction industry, according to Goldenhar.

Those who have taken the S-CAT receive an assessment of their own company’s maturity in safety climate, and also a report of benchmarked scores with other organizations that have taken the S-CAT. The company-level report contains scores for all leading indicators.

Given the high number of responses, CPWR has seen some predictive characteristic with the tool: the higher the S-CAT score, the lower a company’s recordable incident rate.

Organizations and individuals can take the S-CAT by visiting CPWR recommends that companies share the link with employees and encourage them to enter answers anonymously. This can lead to productive discussions on how to strengthen safety.

Check out also this post on the NIOSH Science Blog.





Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

Content Thought Leader