What is the Safety Culture Maturity of Your Industry?

safety culture maturity

Companies working within some industries have higher serious injury claims than others and it may be due to their level of safety culture maturity. By maturity, we mean organisations that manage workplace safety within a risk management methodology.

A risk management approach uses the hierarchy of controls to apply the highest level of control measure for high-risk tasks that is practical and allows employees to do their job. Employees understand and can identify workplace hazards and select appropriate control and critical control measures to address the risk. In this article, we draw on the most recent serious injury claims statistics from Safe Work Australia to discuss them in the context of safety culture maturity.

What Do the Numbers Tell Us?

In 2021, there was a total of 120,355 serious injury claims across all industries in Australia. In a direct hit to productivity, injured workers take on average 6.6 weeks off work to recover. Also, serious injury claims cost on average, $13,500 each to rehabilitate and compensate the injured workers.

Manual handling and slips, trips and falls remain the most common serious injury claims across all industries. Males are more likely to be injured than female workers. Labourers, service workers and machine operators are the most common occupations where injuries occur. And the trend is increasing from previous years.

The Tap into Safety Platform offers interactive and engaging hazard perception training online and on smart devices. We focus on critical risks and the common workplace hazards that can lead to a fatality or serious injury within industry-specific scenarios. The Platform has over 150 out-of-the-box training courses across a range of industry settings including several on safe manual handling and working at height. If we don’t have what you need, we also build custom training content. If you’d like to know more, please contact us or click through to try a free online demo.

See our article, Can Employees Recognise, Recall and Report Workplace Hazards?

10 Elements of Safety Culture Maturity

The safety culture maturity of an organisation consists of ten elements. We can determine an organisation’s level of maturity by how far they progress on these elements.

• Management commitment and visibility
• Communication
• Productivity versus safety
• Learning organisation
• Safety resources
• Participation
• Shared perceptions about safety
• Trust
• Industrial relations and job satisfaction
• Training

How Does Safety Culture Maturity Affect Serious Claim Numbers?

Healthcare, manufacturing, and construction are the industries where a worker is more likely to be seriously injured. The frequency rate of injury is twice that of transport, postal and warehousing. Why is there such a difference across industry sectors?

It appears that the level of safety culture maturity correlates with the number of serious injuries across industries. That is, industries with high levels of maturity are less likely to incur as many serious injuries, and the rate and frequency per one million hours worked are lower.

5 Levels of Safety Maturity

Research has identified five levels of safety culture maturity that may help to guide your business. Where do you think you sit on this continuum?

  1. Emerging – where we define safety in terms of technical and procedural solutions to comply with regulations. Organisations don’t see safety as a key business risk and the safety department has the primary responsibility for safety. Where many accidents are seen as unavoidable and as part of the job.
  2. Managing – where the organisation’s accident rate is average for its industrial sector but they tend to have more serious accidents than the overall average. These organisations view safety as a business risk and put management time and effort into preventing accidents. They solely define safety in terms of adherence to rules and procedures and engineering controls. Where although managers perceive that the majority of accidents are preventable, they blame the unsafe behaviour of front-line staff. The organisation measures safety performance in terms of lagging indicators such as LTI’s and we reward with safety incentives when LTI rates reduce.
  3. Involving – where accident rates are relatively low but are plateauing. The organisation understands how critical it is to involve employees in health and safety decisions to improve. Managers recognise that a wide range of factors causes accidents and the root causes often originate from management decisions. The majority of staff accept personal responsibility for their own health and safety. The organisation actively monitors safety performance and use the data effectively to pinpoint areas to address.
  4. Cooperating – where the organisation places importance on all employees feeling that they are valued and treated fairly. The organisation puts significant effort into proactive measures to prevent accidents. The organisation actively monitors all data available including non-work accidents. They promote a healthy lifestyle and the importance of good mental health.
  5. Continuous improvement –  where a core company value is to prevent all injuries or harm to employees both at work and at home. The organisation has had a sustained period (years) without a recordable accident or high potential incident, but there is no feeling of complacency. The organisation uses a range of indicators to monitor performance but it is not performance-driven, as it has confidence in its safety processes. The organisation is continually striving to be better and find better ways of improving hazard control mechanisms.

See our article, How Can We Use Data to Improve Safety Performance?

What Part Does the Safety Hierarchy of Controls Play?

The hierarchy of controls pyramid has six levels. You must always aim to eliminate the risk, which is the most effective control. If this is not reasonably practicable, you must minimise the risk by working through the other alternatives in the hierarchy of controls. Administrative controls and PPE are the least effective at reducing risk because they do not control the hazard at the source and rely on human behaviour and supervision.

  1. Elimination: Can we eliminate the hazard by changing the environment or the way we work?
  2. Substitution: Can we replace the hazard, for example, by changing the equipment or tools used to perform a hazardous task?
  3. Isolation: Can we isolate or separate the hazard or hazardous work practices from people not involved in the work or the general work areas?
  4. Engineering Controls: Can we use machinery and devices to remove the hazard?
  5. Administrative Controls: Can we change the process or the way that employees perform the hazardous task?
  6. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Can we provide PPE that will protect employees from the hazard?

We note a general lack of knowledge by employees about control measures and critical control measures. These terms don’t seem to be common in industries other than mining and resources. Critically, industries don’t always use a risk management methodology. Organisations in these industries with high injury levels may need to spend some more time training employees about the hierarchy of controls and the importance of critical control measures. Especially when many of their employees are working on high-risk tasks.

See our article, Workplace Hazards and the Hierarchy of Controls.

To Conclude

In this article, we use the most recent serious injury claims statistics from Safe Work Australia to discuss safety culture maturity. There appears to be a direct correlation between higher rates of serious injury claims and a less mature safety culture. One reason for low safety culture maturity could be that some organisations fail to use risk management methodologies, foster the safety hierarchy of controls or train their employees in control and critical control measures.

The goal is to reduce workplace injuries and fatalities this year and beyond. Organisations working in agriculture, forestry and fishing, manufacturing, construction and transport, postal and warehousing must take steps to increase their safety culture maturity to reduce serious injury claims.

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