Saskatchewan’s construction safety group uses IWH’s safety culture tool to measure OHS among member employers

About impact case studies

This impact case study is part of a series that illustrates the diffusion, uptake and outcomes of Institute for Work & Health research, based upon our research impact model. The model differentiates three types of impact:
Type 1: Evidence of diffusion of research
Type 2: Evidence of research informing decision-making at the policy or organizational level
Type 3: Evidence of societal impact

This is a Type 1 case study

Published: November 2022

A few years ago, the Saskatchewan Construction Safety Association (SCSA) began looking for a tool to measure the occupational health and safety (OHS) culture of its member firms. A director on its board had suggested that the SCSA find a way to measure OHS performance, one that went beyond workers’ compensation claim rates, which are lagging indicators of performance. The SCSA looked for ways to assess safety culture, which refers to the set of shared values and beliefs in a workplace about OHS and can be a predictor of future performance. The SCSA decided to use the Institute for Work & Health’s Organizational Performance Metric (IWH-OPM).

The IWH-OPM is an evidence-based, eight-item questionnaire developed by IWH and Ontario’s prevention system partners. Many organizations across Canada, including several government agencies, have used it as a tool to help workplaces assess and improve their health and safety culture, which helps them to achieve better health and safety outcomes—i.e. fewer work injuries or work-related illnesses. Previous IWH impact case studies have documented such use of the IWH-OPM. (See, for example, IWH leading indicator tool wins over advocates across Canada, and IWH eight-item tool helping WorkSafeBC assess workplace cultures, interact with employers.)

To help it gather and analyze OHS data, SCSA hired EHS Analytics, a Calgary-based firm that specializes in health and safety data, research and machine learning. SCSA and EHS Analytics considered several tools. The IWH-OPM was selected because it is concise, easy to administer and easy to use—it can be completed in a few minutes.

We were looking for a tool that would be simple for our members to use and that could also provide a benchmark of safety culture in the Saskatchewan construction industry, says Edward Pyle, Vice-President, SCSA. The IWH-OPM fits the bill.

EHS Analytics worked with the SCSA to administer the IWH-OPM to SCSA members, with a plan to conduct the survey every six months. Participation is voluntary, but SCSA members are encouraged to complete the survey and can do so at no cost. Members then get access to a dashboard that allows them to see their firm’s results for each of the eight survey questions, their overall score and a guide to interpret these figures. They also receive average industry results and trends over time, broken down by firm size and three subsectors.

EHS Analytics is studying the data from IWH-OPM surveys to identify helpful patterns and relationships. As of October 2022, the IWH-OPM had been administered three times to SCSA members. At least 400 surveys were completed each time (and over 550 in the third instance). While most of those completing the first three surveys were office workers or managers, EHS Analytics also implemented new approaches to reach out to front-line workers. The percentage of surveys completed by professionals and front-line workers steadily increased over the first three surveys, from 21 per cent in October 2021 to 28 per cent in April 2022, and 35 per cent in October 2022.

Once the survey has been conducted for a few years, EHS Analytics will be able to see if scores on the IWH-OPM are predictive of future OHS performance. The IWH-OPM is a valuable tool to measure workplace OHS culture, says Dr. Mohammad Khalkhali, Data Science and Analytics Team Lead, EHS Analytics. We will also be exploring its efficacy as a leading indicator of OHS outcomes in Saskatchewan’s construction industry. If so, firms receiving lower scores could be motivated to improve workplace OHS policies and practices to reduce injury risk.

Some interesting findings have already emerged from early analysis. Some SCSA members (but not all) participate in the Certificate of Recognition (COR®) program, which verifies that companies have implemented a comprehensive health and safety management system. EHS Analytics has found that, on average, COR®-certified members obtain statistically significantly higher scores on the IWH-OPM than those without COR® certification.

The firm also found that IWH-OPM participants with perfect scores had significantly fewer days lost due to workers’ compensation claims in the previous three years than those without perfect scores.

The IWH-OPM is already helping our members to measure and improve safety culture, which, in turn, will improve safety outcomes, says Pyle. It also helps SCSA advisors to have informed conversations with their clients. We are encouraging our members to participate in the IWH-OPM surveys so that they, and the industry as a whole, can benefit from the data that we are gathering and analyzing.