New survey data on business attitudes to safety was revealed at the Safety In Action Conference on 20 April 2010. The data was released jointly by the Australian Institute of Management and the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA).
In short there was not much that was new in the survey data but the survey was important for several reasons.
Firstly, the SIA rarely gets involved in surveys of this scope and this area. Even this survey was primarily undertaken by AIM with the SIA’s support. The SIA needs to become more involved in activities that set or challenge the safety agenda in Australia. CEO Gary Lawson-Smith’s suggestion that the American Society of Safety Engineers and the Institute of Occupational Health & Safety undertake similar studies has merit but if a global survey was to be undertaken it should be more thorough and more precise than the current survey.
Secondly, the survey provides some fresh Australian data that allows others to develop a discussion on workplace safety. The survey summary provides some statistical highlights:
“Just 44% of OHS personnel said there is a ‘Very high priority’ placed on health and safety in their organisations compared to 71% of CEOs and Board members and 64% of senior managers.”
“…it is surprising to find that less than half of CEOs and Board members (49%) and senior managers (44%) ‘Strongly agreed’ that ‘There is OHS leadership within my organisation’.”
“Encouragingly, 64% of respondents say that ‘performance on OHS is considered crucial’ to their organisations’ success. However, a pointer to the OHS challenges ahead is that 34% of CEOs, Board members and senior managers do not agree with that statement.”
The survey is a good conversation starter but it is certainly not representative as the demographics included in the survey data seem to indicate.
Although AIM has a healthy SME membership , according to CEO Susan Herron (pictured below right), the small business respondent percentage was low. The number of HR professionals who participated was comparatively low and the number of respondents from Victoria was almost 60% greater than the next state New South Wales with 10%.
Addressing these variations in future surveys would be a good move even if the changes did not allow comparisons with this year’s data. The terminology of some of the questions should also be tightened.
One example may be that “My organisation has a well entrenched OHS culture” could perhaps be changed to “Rate how entrenched the safety culture is in your workplace”. But then would the respondents all have the same understanding of what a “safety culture” is and how this differs from a “workplace culture” or an “organisational culture”?
Many safety jobs in Australia are advertised as HSE (health safety environment) positions yet this survey focussed on OHS. Susan Herron was asked about this. SafetyAtWorkBlog put this question in the press conference is available below.
This survey should generate considerable media attention in Australia because of the subject matter and the reputation of the Australian Institute of Management. The way the data is reported will be interesting to watch but of more significance could be the comments, letters and other responses that any media reports may generate.