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How Do Companies Measure Safety in the Workplace?

by Erin Schreiner

When employees enter their workplace day after day, they should do so feeling safe. Employers, eager to ensure a level of workplace safety that allows for employee comfort and productivity, must work to measure how safe their workplaces are. Because the concept of workplace safety is such a broad one, there are several ways to measure it.

Self-Assessment

Many companies begin with a simple self-assessment. To measure safety using this metric, business leaders must assign one or more individuals the task of completing a self-assessment rubric. Because a self-assessment is only useful if it is accurate, employers should ideally create a team of individuals, including both members of management and the general work force, said ACC Workplace Safety Management Practice, a New Zealand governmental organization. By working together to complete this self-assessment, the team can determine how safe the workplace already is and identify areas where improvement is needed.

Employee Surveys

Through the completion of employee surveys, business owners can step into their workers’ shoes and find out how safe these employees feel. By measuring workplace safety in this manner, employers can potentially identify dangers that they don’t see as business leaders. To effectively measure employee perception of workplace safety, business leaders must use a comprehensive instrument, such as the 50-item Work Safety Scale. For more on this assessment, consult Reference 2. Through the use of a detailed measurement tool, employers can gather a quantifiable answer to the question, “how safe is my workplace” and pinpoint which parts of the work environment leave their workers feeling at risk.

Incident Data

The simplest -- and least subjective -- way to measure workplace safety is to simply track incident data. By meticulously documenting any injury or violence in the workplace, business leaders can effectively determine whether such incidents are on the increase or decline. Monitoring this type of not-influenced-by-bias data also allows workplace leaders to accurately measure the effectiveness of workplace safety improvement efforts.

Specialized Formulas

Instead of just using straight incident data as a measurement of workplace safety, some companies use formulas to manipulate the data in hopes of providing a more accurate and customized outcome. Maury Gittleman and Brooks Pierce wrote of one such formula measure for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Gittleman and Pierce proposed that, instead of just reporting incident numbers, businesses report injuries and fatalities relative to their output. The benefit of using this formula is that it allows for differences in expected numbers of injuries based on business size. Through this approach, business leaders can more easily see that a larger business may be just as safe as a smaller business, even if the larger business has experienced more workplace injury or violence incidents.

About the Author

Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.