Safetip #88: Surveys to Evaluate Workplace Changes

July 19, 2017
By Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

This week’s Safetip is about conducting employee surveys to evaluate changes that are designed to improve workplace safety and health.

Look Carefully at Changes Made to Improve Safety & Health

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published a guidance document in 2004 on evaluating safety and health changes in the workplace. The document urges EHS managers to look carefully at changes made to improve occupational safety and health by asking the following question: “Does it really work?”

A systematic process is needed to evaluate whether: 1) a workplace change designed to improve safety and health was effective, 2) its implementation was effective, and 3) the results show any improvements, NIOSH says. Examples of changes include: installing a new ventilation system to improve air quality, providing a new training course, changing an equipment to another version, etc.

The evaluation of a workplace change requires the collection of relevant data. NIOSH specifies three types of data:

  • Conditions before the change.
  • Information about how the change was made.
  • What happened after the change was made.

Collect Data Through Surveys

NIOSH’s document mentions surveys among the many ways to collect data. Surveys are useful for determining perceptions of workers both before and after a change.

Examples of questions to ask for a pre-change assessment include:

  • What is working well?
  • What is working poorly?
  • Where in the work process are there delays in production?
  • Where can quality be improved?
  • What procedures place workers at risk of illness or injury?
  • What changes can be made to correct existing problems?

Examples of questions to ask for a post-change assessment include:

  • Is the change effective?
  • How has the workplace changed?
  • Are things better or worse?
  • How could the change be improved?

You can also use surveys to measure knowledge, attitudes and behaviors. In addition, NIOSH recommends that you test the survey with a sample of workers before using it, to find out whether the questions are well understood.

It’s better to encourage the participation of your entire workforce in a survey. But if you can’t survey everyone, select a sample that represents all important groups such as departments and work teams within a plant or factory, and be sure to include all groups expected to be affected by the workplace change. Finally, make sure that responses are confidential. Anonymous surveys can encourage employees to give more honest feedback.

Surveys are not only an effective way of determining whether a change succeeded at improving safety and health, they also contribute to increase employee engagement and participation in an occupational safety and health program.

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