In order to improve workplace safety, organisations should be encouraging a reporting culture. By establishing a culture that reports and records lag and lead indicators of accidents, incidents and near misses; faults, errors and design problems can be assessed and improved upon. A reporting culture sits within the organisation’s safety culture that is broken up into five areas. In this post we review a paper from the Centre for Innovative Human Systems, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland that is developing a model to encourage a reporting culture to improve workplace safety. We detail the five subsets of safety culture and discuss barriers to successful reporting by organisations before offering some strategies to improve your reporting culture.
5 components of safety culture
James Reason way back in 1997 described five components of safety culture:
Informed Culture – This is where lagging data is collected from events like accidents and near misses and integrates them with leading measures such as safety audits, improvement suggestions and training. Active involvement includes all levels within the organisation to develop a safety culture, that clearly illustrates the level of safety within the organisation.
Reporting Culture – This is an organisational climate where employees are willing to report near misses, incidents and accidents openly and honestly.
Just Culture – This is where honest mistakes are reported without fear of ramifications with the intent of improving safety practice. However, in the case of dangerous acts of negligence, “justness” is balanced by both sides and dealt with accordingly.
Flexible Culture – This is where safety related changes easily meet changing demands, for example, increased output requirements, new legislation or equipment failure.
Learning Culture – This is where appropriate conclusions from all or any collected safety information is coupled with a desire to implement changes to procedures and equipment where necessary, to improve safety performance.
Barriers preventing a reporting culture
This study focussed on the second component of safety culture, the Reporting culture.
The role of management in developing and supporting a reporting culture is a paramount. The main barriers to reporting accidents, incidents and near misses include:
- the fear of being blamed, disciplined, embarrassed, or found legally liable,
- unsupportive management attitudes such as complacency about known deficiencies,
- insincerity about addressing safety issues, and
- discouragement of reporting of near-misses.
5 fatal flaws that undermine a reporting culture
Organisations may be keen to embrace a reporting culture to provide real insight and measurable data of their safety performance from the ground up, but there are 5 identified fatal flaws across all levels that can undermine a reporting culture.
1. Upper management may believe in a reporting culture and provide financial support, but there is a disconnect with middle managers who are not engaged and may not support them because they have not been involved in the process,
2. Safety professionals may champion and support a reporting culture and even though they are provided with the technology to be successful, they may struggle to effectively teach the organisation,
3. Supervisors, who may have their employees best interest at heart and don’t want workers to get injured may still be reluctant to take on additional reporting requirements due to time and production pressures,
4. Employees, who want to be safe but may question the need to, or reason behind, reporting events such as near misses, due to the added responsibilities and reporting requirements in an already busy work day, and
5. Data management is incomplete, and ineffectual, due to limited or no received reports leading to no data to analyse and underlying problems remaining unknown.
Reporting of near misses is often a contentious issue and the need to collect this data may be questioned. There is a need to understand the usefulness of such data in preventing future incidents and accidents, however there may be resistance in ruffling the organisation’s “status quo” when they can become comfortable with accepting near misses as business as usual. Afterall, near misses result in zero injuries, minimal property damage, and they leave little or no evidence. It may be easier or more desirable to simply ignore them. As a result, employees may feel that reporting such data is a waste of time as they will not be viewed positively and ever acted upon.
See our post on encouraging reporting of pyschological injuries.
How can we establish a positive reporting culture?
For organisations seeking to improve their reporting culture there are six key groups and areas that should be considered.
1. Top management must be visibly committed to the process,
2. Middle management must be actively involved in the programme,
3. Supervisor performance is focused and linked to KPI’s,
4. Employees must be encouraged to actively participate,
5. The reporting system must be flexible enough to accommodate the site or organisational culture, and
6. The reporting system must be perceived as positive by the workforce in the knowledge that what is reported will be respected and acted upon.
To collect the most accurate data after an accident, incident or near miss event, the report needs to be lodged on the system as soon after the event as possible. Research has shown that the process of recalling an event is limited by the capacity of the short-term memory to the point where only the most recent experiences are most accurately recounted. See our post on Can employees recognise, recall and report workplace hazards? Implementing a reporting system that fits into the day-to-day operations of an organisation is the best option where information is entered as a matter of routine. These strategies should improve the quality of reporting within the organisation.
How can Tap Into Safety reports help?
The Tap Into Safety training platform provides rela time reporting to show gaps in safety knowledge around workplace hazards. This data pinpoints areas that require additional focus and can predict the likelihood of your next workplace accident, incident or near miss. Please try a free demo of our safety training that can be used to make your safety induction more enagaing or as refrsher training if you have had a recent accident, incident or near miss. Please take a look at our comprehensive reporting features that highlight gaps in safety knowledge.