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NOSACQ-50 Soft guidelines

‘Soft guidelines’ for use of NOSACQ-50

1. Never start a safety climate survey unless there is a clear intention of taking action if indicated. Management should be clearly committed to taking action if indicated before the survey takes place. A survey without subsequent action is worse than no survey. The employees will be disillusioned and the confidence in management will suffer.

2. The survey results should be seen as a tool for dialogue and development – not as a “grade book”. If a survey shows a low level of safety climate, many people tend to look at the results as a “grade book” in school or a court sentence. This is not a constructive way to use a survey. If a survey identifies “problems” areas, it is important to set priorities. First, the distinction between “basic conditions” and “factors that should be changed” should be made (point 7 below above). Second, priority should be given to a few of the most important among the “factors that should be changed”. It is a bad idea to try to change everything at one time. The survey should be seen as a tool in the ongoing development of the organization, and “problems” should be seen as challenges and opportunities for learning.

3. Answering the questionnaire is voluntary!! A low response rate can decrease the quality of the survey. The non-responders will most likely be different from the responders.

4. All respondents are anonymous. If scores are calculated for groups of less than 20 persons all group members should give their active consent. At a few workplaces the employees find it natural not to be anonymous, but this is quite rare. In most cases it is important to protect the anonymity of the respondents. This makes it possible to give critique of the work environment without being afraid of negative sanctions from management or colleagues. If groups are smaller than 20 persons, the statistical precision will be rather small (wide confidence limits). If the groups are small, some employees may also feel that their anonymity is threatened.

5. All employees have the right to see and discuss the results. A report on the safety climate is of no value if the employees do not have the right to see and discuss the results. This means that the report should be available and also understandable for the employees. In many cases it will be a good idea that the consultant or another expert explains the results to the employees, and that the employees are given the opportunity to ask questions.

6. Management as well as supervisors and workers should participate and be committed during the whole process. It is important that representatives from all groups at the worksite participate in the whole process. A “participative approach” without the commitment of the management will often run into major problems with regard to resources and implementation. A “management approach” without the participation of the employees will often run into problems with lack of support and passive resistance. An approach without support from middle managers will often fail since these employees are key persons in any kind of changes at a workplace.

7. It is important to distinguish between basic conditions of work that are “part of the job” (e.g. outdoor weather effects) and factors that could be changed. Do not try to change what cannot be changed, as in some cases the conditions may be considered "part of the job". When basic conditions cannot be changed, focus should be on the strengthening of individual and collective coping resources and competences.

8. There are no standard solutions to the problems. Solutions should be developed locally and integrated in the other activities of the organization aiming at increased productivity and better quality. Almost all safety climate challenges can be solved by the people at the worksite. There are at least two major reasons for this: A) The people of the worksite are the persons who have to change their own ways of doing things. They have to be their own “agents of change”; B) Solutions have to take into account the local resources, conditions and barriers. All changes are context-specific. Even two “identical” worksites may have different potentials and barriers. For these reasons standard “cook-books” have limited value in this field.

9. If interventions are made, it is a good idea to repeat the survey after 1-2 years in order to see if the intended improvements have been made. One of the advantages of using a standardized instrument (such as NOSACQ) is that it can be used for assessing the effects of interventions aiming at improving the working conditions. Usually the interventions should have sufficient time to “settle” before the second survey is performed. If the intended improvements have not been achieved, it should be taken seriously. A proper analysis of “what went wrong here” should be performed.

10. Many workplaces will benefit from surveys with regular intervals as part of the overall concept of the “learning organization” and the “developmental work”. A “learning organization” is an organization in which failures and successes are used as possibilities for collective and organizational learning. Many organizations have norms and procedures that are counterproductive or hide the real problems.

Contact: Pete Kines

National Research Centre for the Working Environment | Lersø Parkallé 105 | DK-2100 Copenhagen O | Denmark |

Phone +45 3916 5200 | fax +45 3916 5201 | e-mail: | CVR: 15413700 | EAN: 5798000399518

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