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By: Stacey Godbold

Does Your Perception of the Safety Culture Align with Their Reality?

I started thinking about the concept of ‘perception vs reality’ in regards to safety culture as I am working on an article about substance abuse related to the labor workforce. In my survey, I ask safety pros if they believe their organization is a safe place for team members to come forward and seek help or talk about their substance abuse. Ninety percent raised their proverbial hand and said ‘yes’. My question to them is, how do you know? Did you ask them if they feel safe? What you believe to be the reality of the safety culture and what is perceived may not align. 

We are good at experiencing the world differently. Our personal experiences oftentimes shape the master narrative. How we see and hear information and then perceive it becomes our reality. There are a litany of studies, articles, ted talks ad infinitum, on perception is reality, however my favorite example is a dress. 

Do you remember the 2015 white/ gold vs blue/black dress that nearly broke the internet? 

credit: WIRED

Viewers argued about whether the dress was white and gold or black and blue. Case in point; we can all see different things based on past experiences, heredity, needs, peer groups, interests, and expectations. 

Here is where data comes in. Distribute this EHS Perception Survey by Arrow Safety and gather the right data. Your assumptions could be right on and your team could feel safe reporting near misses, observations, unsafe conditions, as well as ask for help or understanding about substance abuse or mental health issues.  However what if your assumptions and the data do not align? 

There’s power and opportunity to understand these differences. If we have empathy in knowing that everyone perceives the information differently, we can start to think about how we can deliver the information differently. Start by gathering data and asking more questions. Get curious. 

Rather than assuming they have the same information to make decisions about the world that you do….assume they don’t. Assume it’s different. This gives us an opportunity to change. We can change our behaviors, our technologies, our processes, we can change our assumptions about how they are interacting with the world.

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