IWH eight-item tool helping WorkSafeBC assess workplace cultures, interact with employers

When two British Columbia sawmill explosions in 2012 left four workers dead and another 44 injured, the province quickly decided to take a hard look at what could be done to improve the effectiveness of the province’s occupational health and safety (OHS) regulator and enforcer, WorkSafeBC. It appointed a special advisor, Gordon Macatee, to recommend ways to improve WorkSafeBC’s operations.

In a 2014 report called WorkSafeBC Review and Action Plan, Macatee offered 43 recommendations to enhance workplace safety in the province. Macatee was retained to monitor the implementation of his recommendations and, since then, he has been filing reports with WorkSafeBC on its progress. This culminated in a final report issued in April 2016, which said that, as of March 1, 2016, all 43 recommendations had been implemented.

One of the recommendations made and tracked by Macatee suggested ways to help WorkSafeBC assess workplace health and safety cultures:

Recommendation 36. Develop and implement performance measures to assess the “health and safety awareness” levels among workers; the “health and safety culture” of the business enterprise; the effective engagement of WorkSafeBC officers; and the effectiveness of compliance activities.

Among the tools that WorkSafeBC has adopted to fulfil this recommendation is the Institute for Work & Health Organizational Performance Metric (IWH-OPM). This evidence-based, eight-item questionnaire helps organizations assess their OHS performance and identify where improvements might be made to health and safety policies and practices in order to prevent injuries or illnesses from occurring.

In February 2015, Macatee’s interim report to WorkSafeBC said that the IWH-OPM tool had been garnering interest, and was being used in a number of ways by WorkSafeBC. Future uses for this tool are currently being explored and are expected to help identify opportunities to raise health and safety awareness levels for employers and employees across industries in B.C., the report added.

Macatee’s final report in 2016 confirmed that WorkSafeBC’s use of the IWH-OPM continues, and identified how its use had expanded.

While there is no commonly used tool for measuring health and safety culture in other jurisdictions, there is growing interest in a safety culture survey tool called Organizational Performance Metric (OPM), the final report says. This tool was developed by the Institute of Work and Health. It is currently being used in New Brunswick, and is being tested in Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and British Columbia.

According to the final report, the IWH-OPM is being used by WorkSafeBC in these ways:

  • it has provided the tool, and background information on its use, to all of the health and safety associations in the province;
  • it is using the tool with a majority of employers who are supported by SafeCareBC, the health and safety association for the long-term health sector;
  • it continues to regularly employ the IWH-OPM survey with large employers in the agency’s “Key Account Performance Consulting” program, in order to provide them with insights into their OHS culture and inform them if their culture may be helping or hindering injury prevention efforts; and
  • it is partnering with several large employers in the forestry harvesting sector to encourage the use of the IWH-OPM to evaluate and improve the culture of safety in the sector.

This innovative tool is reported to be helping WorkSafeBC engage with employers in new and meaningful ways, the report says. Future uses for the safety culture tool are currently being explored to identify opportunities to raise health and safety awareness levels for employers and employees across industries in B.C.

Publication date: 

December 2016

Type of impact: 

Type 2: Evidence of research informing decision-making