Efforts to monitor and continuously improve safety culture have led nuclear industry leaders to task ORAU with performing periodic, comprehensive safety culture evaluations of their workforces and practices. By using written surveys and electronic surveys, focus groups and one-on-one interviews, ORAU gained input from 30,000 workers over six years, which resulted in valuable feedback on the effectiveness of safety programs and initiatives.
Workers desire an environment where they are respected for their expertise, acknowledged for their contributions and informed about the reasons behind decisions. For each customer, ORAU follows up with recommendations to help managers and supervisors influence the perceptions, attitudes, behaviors and performance of the workforce.
The most common areas of concern center on leadership behavior and communication. Subsequent improvement actions reinforce strong management systems, decision making and leadership behavior; personal accountability for safety; and communication and reporting of safety concerns.
By following recommendations and taking effective safety culture actions, leaders are able to make data-driven decisions that help them stay on the leading edge of safety management of high-hazard work.
An organization’s management systems, decision making and leadership behaviors play an tremendous role in employee perceptions of safety culture. Exploratory factor analysis reveals that this factor accounts for 80 percent of the variance in employees’ perceptions of safety culture.
Mind the Gap
Management’s perception of safety culture is almost always more positive than the perception of employees in the same organization. It is not a question of whether there will be a gap; it is simply a matter of the width of the gap. For example, senior management often believes they are effectively communicating through all levels of an organization; however, employees perceive that communication to be much less effective.
I Asked 30000 People in the Nuclear Industry About Safety Culture; This is What I Learned
Jeff Miller: Leading organizational change in safety and security culture
ORAU's Dr. Jeff Miller has led workplace safety and security culture evaluations for more than 35 organizations across the country and began researching safety culture in 2011 for a project in Oak Ridge. After a customer received a negative evaluation of their safety culture, they approached Miller to help them better understand contributing factors and provide recommendations for improvement.
Miller didn’t know it yet, but he and his team were pioneering research practices in a field that has matured to include the broader study of organizational culture. And, he quickly learned that other organizations and facilities were in need of his safety and security evaluation services.