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Human Factors Expert Discusses Ways to Improve and Measure Safety Culture

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

It is well-accepted that safety culture and safety performance are inextricably linked. When the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) realized in 2004 that safety in rail had plateaued, they embarked on an effort to improve safety culture, and thus improve overall rail safety. FRA came to Volpe to assess the effectiveness of their Clear Signal for Action program, which was designed to help change safety culture at the grassroots level of an organization.

Reporting on this Volpe and FRA award-winning project work, Volpe scientist Dr. Michael Zuschlag discusses the Clear Signal for Action pilot demonstration with Union Pacific Railroad in the accompanying video. This effort was recently awarded the Outstanding Evaluation Award from the American Evaluation Association. In this dynamic 12-minute technical presentation (plus 4 minutes of Q&A), Dr. Zuschlag describes the methods that were used to improve safety culture at Union Pacific Railroad, and the six tools and techniques used by Volpe evaluators to assess the effectiveness of this safety culture change in improving overall safety.

The Clear Signal for Action methodology has three main elements:

  • Workers observing workers and providing feedback on safe and risky behaviors
  • Aggregation of data and analysis of root causes by a joint labor and management team
  • Safety leadership training for managers to help them adopt coaching behaviors instead of being only disciplinarians

The six tools and techniques that were used by Volpe and are key to a successful evaluation include the following:

  • Make a logic model
  • Check on implementation
  • Use multiple methods
  • Use gap analysis
  • Use baseline period and comparison sites
  • Do two or more evaluations

View Dr. Zuschlag's presentation to learn how to improve safety culture in your organization and how to measure your success.

Dr. Michael Zuschlag delivering his presentation

Dr. Michael Zuschlag delivering his presentation. (Volpe photo)