Speaking Up Makes a Difference: Agencywide Changes Made Based on Your Safety Culture Survey Results
Your thoughts, comments and suggestions about the Safety Culture at NASA have been heard. The Office of Safety and Mission Assurance, along with Subject Matter Experts (SME) from each of the NASA centers, has worked to make changes throughout the agency based on your input from the NASA Safety Culture Survey.
“Seeing comments and suggestions about Safety Culture from our employees is vital to the Safety Culture of NASA,” said Safety Culture Program Manager Tracy Dillinger. “Unfiltered information helps us pinpoint what we are doing right and where we need to improve.”
The Safety Culture Survey provides center directors with a tool to identify and correct latent organizational conditions that may lead to accidents and also implement strategies to improve safety. Participants fill out general and center-specific questions, then center SMEs review and evaluate the results. Centers receive both positive and negative feedback from the survey.
“We’ve made changes to improve safety at Kennedy based upon employee comments we received in prior surveys,” said Darcy Miller, safety engineer at Kennedy Space Center. “When participants answered questions about knowing how to report safety concerns, they scored very high. However, when we read through the comments, we discovered that there was some confusion.”
Civil servant and contractor safety professionals across the center worked together to develop an improved process for how to report emergencies and safety concerns. The information was promoted through a web site, which was linked at the top of Kennedy’s primary employee web page. It was also shared through various means including safety tips, informational brochures, new employee orientations and as the first slides for training classes.
Kennedy SMEs spent six months developing a website focused on how to report an emergency safety concern. Next, they worked to promote and share the information by linking to the website at the top of the KSC Communicator, incorporating steps to reporting a safety issue at the beginning of all safety training classes and developing informational brochures.
“This has had the biggest impact mainly because we didn’t know it was a problem and there was a very clear solution,” said Miller. “Now it’s blasted across the center.”
Other center SMEs made changes based on similar comments from their center employees. Marshall Space Flight Center provided a refresher of the safety concern and mishap reporting process to the Safety, Health, and Environmental Committee; Wallops Flight Facility published articles on knowing how to report safety concerns in its safety and environmental newsletter and presented the information to the Wallops Executive Safety and Health Committee and the Contractor and Employee Safety Committee; and the White Sands Test Facility Keystone Group organized an outreach initiative to meet with field workers to reiterate that any concerns they have may be brought anonymously to Keystone if they don’t want to speak to leadership directly.
Communication was another common theme of the center surveys. Results showed that many employees feel their center needs to improve their communication efforts on safety. SMEs developed new campaigns or products to improve outreach to employees.
Goddard Space Flight Center created a quarterly newsletter to bring awareness to close call and mishap incidents that occur on the center that could have had a larger impact; Johnson Space Center recruited communication interns to write case studies and develop methods to get information out about mishap investigations; Stennis Space Center employees are contributing articles highlighting best practices, lessons learned, and mishap investigations; the Independent Verification and Validation Facility now has a designated person to promote and champion its Safety Culture program; and Langley Research Center increased its safety and health communications and activities centerwide.
“Because of the survey, management saw that communication is important to their employees, “said David King, Safety and Mission Assurance (SMA) deputy director at Ames Research Center. “They also saw positive comments about the involvement of management.”
Ames management has been playing an active role in safety inspections and training. Ames supervisors are meeting monthly with a branch or division staff to discuss facility inspections, talking with project managers, and conducting safety walk-throughs. In addition, supervisors are checking in with their co-located staff on a quarterly basis to discuss and help with any safety concerns they may have; directorates are holding more safety meetings and training; and SMEs are regularly speaking at town hall meetings about topics of concern. King says based on survey results, employees and supervisors have taken notice.
“It’s a big value to hear what people honestly think,” said King. “That’s what Safety Culture is. It’s what’s in the hearts and minds of every single person. If they don’t think there’s a strong culture, then you need to work on it.”
Many centers went the route of recognizing employees who have been role models for Safety Culture. Armstrong Flight Research Center posts its Safety Award winners on their SharePoint website; Glenn Research Center presented three safety awards during its Center Awards Ceremony; Headquarters formally and informally recognizes supervisors who have responded positively to hazard corrections; and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory publicized employees’ safety contributions and process improvements and created an annual award given to employees who have exhibited excellence in safety.
“Keep safety in front of them.” said Shelleen Lomas, Senior Safety Engineer at Ames. “The more they understand, the more it’s engrained in them and it becomes their Safety Culture.”
Round 4 — the fourth cycle of the agencywide Safety Culture Survey — will begin October 2018 through April 2019, depending on your center’s schedule. Contact your Safety Culture Point of Contact to learn how to participate in the survey and express your thoughts on Safety Culture at your center.
“The anonymous survey is an excellent resource to help us understand the strength of our safety culture. It’s necessary to hear both good and bad feedback,” said Miller. “There are still pockets of challenges out there that need to improve and we need to stay vigilant so they keep improving.”
For more information on the Safety Culture Survey, contact Dillinger.