Perception Survey Helps Transform Safety Culture

Atkinson Construction has long been on the leading edge of safety. In fact, this Colorado-based heavy construction company helped build the Hoover Dam, a project that initiated the use of hard hats. But company leaders know that, unlike brick-and-mortar projects, building a safety culture is never complete. That’s why they rely on Caterpillar’s Safety Perception Survey to take Atkinson’s safety performance to even higher levels.

The initial survey, completed in the early 2000s, gave company leaders a snapshot of the culture, based entirely on input from employees. It revealed attitude and perception gaps between front-line employees, supervisors and managers and called out two areas where improvement hinged on a culture shift: safety accountability and communication.

To address these areas, Caterpillar Safety Services customized its safety accountability course, “On the Front Line,” for Atkinson employees, and this training soon became required for all supervisors. The company also implemented two Caterpillar communication training products—“Speak Up!” and “Listen Up!”—to give employees tools for healthy, two-way communication. In addition, Atkinson developed a new employee orientation course that clearly defined safety-related expectations for every employee.

“We created an atmosphere where employees care and are comfortable to intervene if they see something wrong,” says David Watts, Atkinson’s vice president of safety. “We cannot prevent someone from taking the wrong action, but we can teach people how to care and be engaged.”

The result? Atkinson has reduced safety claims by nearly 70 percent, saving millions of dollars in the process. “The price of the survey is worth it in the long run,” says Watts, who now uses the Safety Perception Survey every 18-24 months to benchmark progress. “We have truly seen a culture shift in our organization, and we couldn’t have done it without the survey that showed us exactly where we needed to begin.”


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