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A strong safety culture is dependent on many things – strong leadership and an engaged workforce in particular. But the systems that organizations use to manage safety (e.g., incident analysis procedures, audits and inspections, regulations and procedures, disciplinary procedures) play an important role as well. Each safety management system has an important contribution to not only improving workplace safety but also helping to foster a strong safety culture.

When a system is poorly designed, badly implemented, or operating ineffectively, its ability to affect beneficial change is compromised and it may actually have a destructive influence on the organization's overall safety culture. For instance, fault finding incident investigations create employee mistrust, insufficient follow-up from identified hazards damages employee morale, and top down leadership practices create employee apathy.


The following systems are measured with SCORES:

  • Leaders' Commitment to Safety
  • Facility Audits and Inspections
  • Incident Reporting and Analysis
  • Employee Engagement
  • Safety Policies and Procedures
  • Risk Assessment
  • Safety Committees
  • Safety Communication
  • Discipline Process
  • Reward and Recognition
  • Behavior Observation and Feedback

For each site, a group of 10-15 employees representing all levels and major functions of the organization (EHS, senior management, supervision, hourly) participate in the assessment of each system during a 1 day session. They review items for all systems with guidance from SPS and assign a score on a 4-point scale as shown below:

1) Beginning. Safety management systems don't exist or are very inadequate. If the system does not exist, there may be little or no effort to implement the system, or even acknowledge the need for such a system. If the system exists, the organization has little or no procedures or documentation for the system and adherence to the system is inconsistent or non-existent. Major improvement is needed.

2) Improving. Safety management systems exist but they are deemed inadequate by a majority of personnel affected by them. Procedures are in place and documented, but documentation is poor or adherence to procedures is sporadic. Employees perceive the system as ineffective, resulting in poor support and participation. There is considerable room for improvement.

3) Achieving. Safety management systems are well documented and generally used effectively. System problems are identified and follow-up procedures exist. This allows the organization to implement and evaluate improvements. Adherence to the system is generally consistent and employee perceptions of the system are mostly favorable although improvement opportunities have still been identified.

4) Leading. The majority of employees consider the safety management systems extremely effective. Participation and support of the system is very high. The system is an exemplar to organizations benchmarking for improvement.

To illustrate, the first five items from the Leader's Commitment to Safety Scale is shown here:

Safety Management Systems Assessment: Leaders' Commitment to Safety
Beginning (1) Circle Choice Leading (4)
1. Leaders sometimes create an atmosphere where employees feel compelled to take risks to get the job done. 1 2 3 4 Leaders do not place even subtle pressure on employees to overlook hazards to get the job done. Purposeful risk-taking is not condoned.
2. Organizational systems sometimes encourage compromises in safety (e.g. production bonuses, cost-cutting initiatives, incentives for reduced injury rates). 1 2 3 4 Leaders ensure organizational systems don't encourage compromises in safety.
3. Safety is often treated as something done "in addition" to one's job. 1 2 3 4 Safety, like production and quality, is integrated into the work performed.
4. Leaders show little understanding of the impact of an organization's culture on safety performance. No efforts are made to address empowerment, teamwork, etc. 1 2 3 4 Leaders actively manage the organization's culture to promote one that supports a sense of "interdependence" and "actively caring" for safety.
5. Leaders' focus on safety is largely on monitoring the status of the outcome numbers (e.g., injury rates). 1 2 3 4 Leaders not only monitor the outcome numbers, but also regularly review the various safety processes and activities to ensure they are operating effectively.

Ratings are completed for items in all system scales and systems strengths/weaknesses are discussed. The team then provides specific, behavioral recommendations for improvement and a final report with all ratings and recommendations is provided to site leadership.

Typical SCORES Implementation*

  1. SPS works with member(s) of the SCORES team to customize SCORES. This may include using organization-specific terminology, adding additional items to the instrument etc.
  2. SPS conducts SCORES at a pilot location with internal personnel observing.
  3. SPS and internal personnel jointly conduct SCORES at a second site.
  4. Internal personnel conduct SCORES at a third location with SPS observing and offering assistance/guidance as needed
  5. Internal personnel conduct SCORES at all remaining locations.

*In some cases (e.g.,single site initiatives) SPS can conduct SCORES in a turn-key fashion rather than the train-the-trainer model described above.

Benefits of SCORES

SCORES allows internal personnel to make long-term system improvements at all company locations. It provides:

  • A method for determining current system effectiveness with drill-down capabilities to underlying issues of concern.
  • Straightforward identification of opportunities to stimulate improvement and growth of the safety systems.
  • Flexibility to reassess systems/culture over time to measure improvement.
  • A train-the-trainer model to develop in-house SCORES experts.
  • A customized tool for unlimited use.

Please contact us at 540.951.7233 or safety@safetyperformance.com for more information on implementation and pricing.

Related Links

SPS offers a variety of services critical to achieving a Total Safety Culture:

  1. Safety Culture Assessment
  2. RADAR Data Management
  3. People Based Safety Process
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