Manufacturing safety climate predicts machine operating behaviours

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The Centre for Work Health and Safety is working with metal and wood manufacturing businesses to try to reduce incidents by improving their “safety climate”.

So, what is a safety climate? It is the value placed on safety, as shown by the actions and inactions of people in the workplace; as well as the presence and quality of safety processes and systems.

Research shows that workplaces with positive safety climates tend to have fewer incidents. This is mainly because workers believe that safety is prioritised, so show more frequent, proactive and safety-creating behaviours (e.g. wearing protective gear, stopping the job if the risk is unacceptable, talking with others about safety matters).

To measure safety climate, the Centre, in partnership with Griffith University’s Safety Science Innovation Lab, interviewed 60 workers, supervisors, managers and SafeWork NSW inspectors to develop a survey.

This survey measures workers’ perceptions of the following areas:

  • allocation of resources to machine maintenance
  • machine operator training and supervision
  • safety evaluation of new machines
  • production pressure
  • safety communication
  • recognition and management of machine operating behaviours

So far, the survey has collected data from over 250 workers across a number of businesses. The data have shown that, for these manufacturers, the workplace-level safety climate score predicts how often workers display safe and unsafe machine operating behaviours.

The results mean that this survey will allow manufacturers to measure and track their safety climate with an aim to reducing incidents.

To assist managers in manufacturing to improve their safety climate, the next step in the research is to develop and test the effectiveness of leadership training

The managers and supervisors will learn about:

  • The concept of a safety climate and the social aspects of risk
  • Leading and facilitating conversations about risk
  • Strategies for managing conflict and building trust within teams
  • How to talk about safety
  • How actions and inactions carry through to drive culture
  • Leading and inspiring others to prioritise safety goals

So, if you are a manufacturing business keen to know how your safety climate stacks up, stay tuned – the survey and training will be made available free of charge in 2020. Also in the future, we aim to undertake this research with other industries.

Register here to stay updated

Remember – a better safety climate = fewer incidents!