The focus group is an interview faciltated by a member of the site and is conducted with a representative group of workers, contractors, tradesmen, engineers, supervisors and management. Peoples’ beliefs about safety and risk are explored. The discussion generates information that provides a context for the safety climate questionnaire results.
It provides the second data source used to gain a deeper understanding of culture by examining six organisational features (as listed below).
A Q&A approach is used to explore themes relating to the organisational culture, building a cultural ‘framework’ around any themes raised, during frank and open discussions.
Trust in Management
Trust represents a set of beliefs held by workers and others about the commitment management have to health and safety. It is demonstrated by the place WHS has in management decision-making, the provision of equipment and procedures to ensure health and safety, and in managerial competence with respect to WHS. Trust has been identified by a number of commentators and researchers as a central issue in a culture where health and safety has a high value (Murray C. Clark & Roy L. Payne 1997; Conchie et al 2006.)
Supervisor support is about the information, help and support provided by the supervisor or manager to their subordinates. Without adequate supervisor support, addressing WHS problems becomes more difficult and communication channels become blocked and ineffective. Supervisor support, participative supervision and leadership have been identified by a number of researchers as an important factor in the development of health and safety value. Marchand and Simard (1998) carried out some research to identify factors which are correlated to WHS outcomes. They found that participatory supervision was the factor most strongly related to good WHS outcomes.
Organisational justice refers to the sense of fairness that exists at the workplace and the level of respect that is displayed for others. It also emphasises diversity, elimination of discrimination and recognises the societal impact of occupational health and safety. There are four sub themes under the concept of organisational justice. These are:
- Distributive justice - Fair distribution of remuneration and rewards
- Procedural justice - Procedures relating to promotion, performance and discipline are fair
- Relational justice – adequate explanation regarding decisions is provided by managers/supervisors
- Informational justice – access to information is fair
Sidney Dekker Just Culture (2007) demonstrates how important the workers’ perception of procedural justice is in developing an open and reporting culture.
Work group cohesion describes the organisational capacity for peers to work together, rely on each other, and asks for help, and gives health and safety a priority and, finally, to work safely without cutting corners even under pressure. Strong workgroup cohesion has been identified as a characteristic of high reliability organisations (Sonja B. Haber & Deborah A. Shurberg 2002).
International research into organisations that create reliable, safe workplaces suggests that such organisations create organisational “mindfulness”, reflecting awareness of potential errors and orientation toward learning from these to minimize future risk. Mindfulness is thus a state of organisational readiness; being culturally and systematically ready to cope with the unexpected (Weick & Sutcliffe, 2001).
Role clarity means knowing what is expected of you in your job, being given the information you need to do your job and being informed well in advance about important changes or decisions at work. These all impact on the effectiveness of WHS management. When employees do not have the information they need to do their job effectively, ineffective and possibly unsafe approaches are more likely. Role clarity has been identified by researchers in a range of human resources/business management fields as being related to good performance (Peter H. Langford, 2009. Macquarie University Voices Project).
The focus group discussion generates information that provides a context for the safety climate questionnaire results. The way people talk about safety is assessed for each of the 6 organisational features and results are presented as a maturity matrix.
The following table is a conceptual example only and does not reflect actual results.