Can responses to COVID-19 act as a litmus test for safety culture?

a litmus test for safety culture


By Madison Hanscom

The pandemic has created an extremely difficult scenario for many businesses. Amidst the hardship, companies are working to balance the safety of workers and customers along with financial survival. This begs the question — will the way in which a company responds to COVID-19 be a reflection of the safety culture?
A company’s safety culture can be described by the collection of attitudes, beliefs, norms, and values surrounding safety and risks in an organization. It also indicates the extent to which the company values people above and beyond production. So, by definition, it is most certainly related. A company with a deeply embedded culture for safety will treat COVID-19 protections and conversations as important – just like any other component of safety like fall protection or chemical handling. Safety is safety. It’s hard to imagine a company with a mature, strong safety culture that is not responding well to the COVID-19 crisis.

When times are tough, it is a particularly good time to put a magnifying glass to the culture. When companies are strained and facing ambiguity, values are put to the test.

How is the company responding? Did upper management act quickly? Were actions put in place before it was legally mandated? Are leaders checking in with employees to get a pulse for how they are feeling? Are there updated protocol? Is there plenty of PPE?

In short — it would be unwise to determine a company’s culture solely on how they have handled the COVID-19 crisis. Safety culture is a complex construct that requires rigorous multifaceted measurement. However, the pandemic we are experiencing is certainly a safety issue, and the way in which companies respond is without a doubt a piece of the safety culture puzzle.

At Propulo Consulting, we care about the health and wellbeing of workers. Our team has the expertise to help your business build a safer and healthier culture. Partner with us to conduct a rigorous safety culture assessment and roadmap a change process that is custom to your needs.