The revision of the SCL – SCL 2.0

By Ron van der Aa and Kaat van der Haar


The Netherlands has been familiar with the Safety Culture Ladder (SCL, then still known by the Dutch name of ‘Veiligheidsladder’) since 2012. Having initially started as ProRail product, it became a NEN-managed product in 2016.

Over the years, the SCL has grown to become a product which is used in an ever-increasing number of sectors. It is now well-known and is being used in more and more countries around the world.

But, just like any NEN product, there comes a time when an assessment is needed to see whether market developments make a revision desirable and/or necessary. That process has taken place in recent years and has led to the development of SCL 2.0.


The scope of SCL has broadened significantly in the past few years. Where this started out as a product which was mainly used in the railway sector, its application has broadened to include many other sectors since 2016. Examples are the construction sector, grid operators and various service sectors.

This broadening of the application of the SCL also led to an increasing number of criticisms of the SCL, both in respect of the Manual and the Certification Scheme.

Examples include:

  • The SCL has too many ‘railway-related terms’, making it hard to apply to other sectors;
  • The SCL has too many descriptions which are system-oriented and are therefore not suitable within the context of measuring the safety culture;
  • The SCL insufficiently addresses employees and their roles, although employees actually play a major role in an organization’s safety awareness;
  • The SCL focuses too much on safe working, whereas safety culture is much broader;
  • The current system of scores for business aspects/characteristics has undesirable effects (also expressed as ‘calculating behaviour’).

These signals were the rationale for a full revision of the SCL, resulting in a new version of the SCL called SCL 2.0.

SCL 2.0

Besides the above signals which prompted a revision of the SCL, there are some topics which should clearly be maintained, such as the recognisability of the SCL and its potential for being applied to all sectors.

SCL 2.0 has been developed over the past few years. The typical differences with respect to the current SCL are:

  1. The six company aspects have been replaced by five themes;
  2. The assessment method by means of scores has been replaced by an assessment which is no longer based on numeral scores, but rather relies on the auditor’s observations as regards attitude, behaviour and culture.

Sub 1);

SCL 2.0 replaces the current six company aspects by the following five themes:

Theme 1;             policy & leadership;

Theme 2;             knowledge & skills;

Theme 3:             primary & secondary processes;

Theme 4:             collaboration;

Theme 5;             learning & improvement.

Each theme is subdivided into an ‘organization’ part and a ‘behaviour’ part,

and each theme has some sub-themes, corresponding to the main theme.

The description of the themes reflects a complete change. SCL 2.0 uses storytelling to convey these descriptions. Through stories, these descriptions become things that should be recognisable/observed in an organization in terms of the particular theme, sub-theme or step.

Sub 2);

SCL 2.0 no longer uses numerical scores for the assessment.

The assessment uses three colours. Possible scores are green, red and orange. ‘Organization’ (O) and ‘Behaviour’ (B) are assessed separately. Since the assessment of the culture mainly concerns the effectiveness of the efforts and tools implemented, the score for ‘B’ is assigned the most importance.

A green score visually indicates that a theme has been rated as sufficient. A theme is rated as sufficient (green) if the auditors are of the opinion that the characteristics of that theme are largely complied with.

A red score visually shows that a theme has been rated as insufficient.

And finally, an orange score is a visual indication that the organization partly complies with the descriptions that go with a theme andthat the organization is making efforts to become fully compliant.

Assessment requirements:

The assessment for O requires at least four of the five themes to be rated as ‘sufficient’ (green). The theme not rated as green must have an orange score for the organization to get a positive rating. A red score means that the step has not been passed.

The assessment for B requires all themes to be rated as ‘sufficient’ (green).


Since a numerical score is no longer awarded under the new method of assessment, organizations may perceive the outcomes of the assessment as being less useful as aids or reference points. To avoid this potentially undesirable effect and, since there has long been a need for reporting requirements to be specified, new reporting criteria have been prepared. These new criteria provide proper justification and substantiation of the findings.

The five themes and their underlying topics are assessed during the audit. Based on this, the audit team finds strengths and areas for improvement.

In their report, the auditors identify and expand on the strengths in each theme and individual topic and on areas for improvement found during the audit to give the organization an idea of its position within a step, and thus of its potential for growth within each theme.

The audit report also contains a substantiation which should enable readers to trace back why a specific score was given to a specific theme. The audit team thus takes responsibility for the proper performance of the audit and the audit team’s findings can also directly help the organization further develop to a higher step.

These are the criteria for reporting:

  • A report on what is good and what can be improved is written for the individual topics for each theme. An assessment is also given (for O and B): green, orange, red? The basic principle is that the listing for each theme must focus on culture. O and B are assessed in conjunction with each other. The assessment of ‘organization’ identifies the relationship to the culture and the consequences for the culture. Here, the overall image regarding the theme is the guiding principle. A substantiation of the score is included here as well.
  • If the auditor has noticed something out of the ordinary, they must identify it and add a description of what they think its implications for the culture are. If the auditor then notices aspects which have a direct bearing on elements described for ‘Organization’, these must be identified as well
  • The report must describe what the findings are: what does the snapshot look like? It is not a recommendation, but merely a representation of the findings.
  • It must not be possible to trace the report back to a single person. The report must be free from personal matters.


We are currently doing some tests in the Netherlands and Germany to establish whether the new version of the SCL (SCL 2.0) is clear and works well for organizations and auditors in practice. We call this process the validation of SCL 2.0.

All CIs in the Netherlands and Germany are involved in this process. In this context, each of them will use one audit for this validation process. However, since the views and opinions of the rest of the market are also very important, a public comment round is planned in the months of September and October 2022, to supplement the validation.

Based on the validation results and the comments collected through the public comment round, SCL 2.0 will be adjusted so that it will eventually be published in mid-2023 (as scheduled).

The SCL 2.0 Expert Team

The revision of the SCL, which has resulted in SCL 2.0, has been a lengthy process. Revising both the description of the SCL and the assessment method has been quite an ambitious undertaking.

It would not have been possible without the efforts and contributions of several experts who therefore deserve to be explicitly mentioned here.

Thank you, Marina van Beekveld, Arno de Graaff, Frank Thoonen, Gerd-Jan Frijters, Hans Aarns, Robert Taen and Taco Buissant des Amorie!

More and more attention for safer working: 1000th organization receives Safety Culture Ladder certificate

On March 10, 2022, the Safety Culture Ladder (SCL) certificate was issued to the 1000th organization that qualified for the SCL. A Safety Culture Ladder certificate maps the safety awareness of employees and managers. Culture is a difficult concept to “measure”. Nevertheless, the audit process for the Safety Culture Ladder provides insight into the safety culture of an organization and makes it clear what can be improved.

The aim of SCL is to test attitude and behavior in all layers of an organization when it comes to health and safety. The assessment method for measuring safety awareness and consciously acting safely in companies consists of 5 ladder steps. In short, reaching ladder step 1 means that the company is acting very reactively. Nothing is done until an accident or something serious has happened. Reaching ladder step 5 means working proactively across the company and with the entire industry to work safer and healthier.

1000th organization

The certificate was awarded by Normec Certification to Contracting and transport company ‘Roel van der Stoel B.V.’ On this occasion, a festive moment was added at Normec Certification. Jeannette Hofman-Züter, project leader of the Safety Culture Ladder at NEN, brought cake and handed a bouquet of flowers to Arjen Werkmeester, commercial director of Normec Certification.

The Safety Culture Ladder was once devised by ProRail. When more and more other companies became interested in the system, ProRail looked for an independent organization to manage the Safety Culture Ladder so that other companies could use it. NEN was chosen. Since the transfer to NEN, there are now 1000 companies that have qualified for the SCL, with the largest growth taking place in 2021: from 300 to 1000 organizations. This growth is due to the adoption of the SCL by the Governance Code for Safety in Construction (GCVB). From 1 January 2022, companies who have signed the GCVB will include safety awareness as an obligation in tenders and contracts. This joint agreement is called: Safety in Procurement (ViA). The intent is that thousands of companies in the construction sector will work more safely by focusing on safety culture and behaviour.

There are different types of SCL products, which differ in audit severity. The SCL has so far been widely used in the energy, offshore and construction sectors in Europe and more and more countries outside of Europe.

Adjustments SCL Webtool

Via the SCL Webtool, NEN offers several instruments that support certification on the SCL.

In the webtool you will find, for example, the questionnaires to be used for certain SCL products as a first self assessment: the SAQ Compact and the SAQ Extended.

The Online File is also part of the SCL Webtool. This allows an organization to upload documents and provide others (including, for example, certification bodies) access to the SAQ results.

To make the SCL Webtool more user-friendly, it has recently been adjusted on a number of points:

  • SAQ Compact
    • Questionnaire has been rewritten to simpler language, to make it even more suitable for all types of employees in an organization. Various statements have been shortened and simplified.
    • Explanation has been added for non-executive organizations. This is intended to help architectural, engineering and consultancy firms translate the questions into their own situation.
    • Some questions have been given a general explanation to make the question easier to interpret.
  • Various web pages have been renewed and made clearer. A.o. tips for administrators are included on how to properly use the questionnaires within the company.
  • Free PDFs of the questionnaires are available to organizations that have a subscription (not a trial subscription), intended for internal use and consultation.

For more information about the web tool, go to

Additional COVID-19 measures as of October 29, 2020

In March 2020, NEN communicated additional exception measures on how to deal with delays and obstacles in audits due to COVID-19 measures. The COVID-19 situation is now taking longer than hoped for and it is good to clarify how NEN deals with this with regard to the validity of certificates and statements. The COVID-19 exception measures will remain in force for the time being until the social situation has changed and NEN communicates cancellation of the exception measures.

The complete description of measures has been translated from the policy of IAF. Additional measures, specific for SCL, are included in the document. To help interpret these measures, here are some examples when COVID-19 measures are obstructing completion of the audit:

  • If a follow-up audit must now take place, but the on-site audit cannot take place, the completion of the follow-up audit may be postponed once for a period up to a maximum of 6 months. Please note: if this follow-up audit has already been postponed for 6 months, no additional postponement will be granted.
  • If a follow-up audit has been postponed for 6 months, the next follow-up audit must take place within one year from that changed date.
  • If a recertification audit takes place now (i.e. the 3 year cycle is coming to an end), the recertification must be completed within up to 12 months after the expiration date, but once the COVID-19 measures obstructing an on-site audit are lifted, the audit must be completed within 3 months of that removal (all this within 12 months).
  • If the audit is not possible in both situations (follow-up or recertification audit), the certificate will be withdrawn or the scope will be adjusted (only state those aspects in the scope which have been fully audited). After this, an initial audit must take place if you want to adjust the scope.
  • Remote audits are allowed during follow-up audits and recertification, but now alsoallowed for step increases and scope extensions. This only concerns the interviewing of “office functions” such as management, HR, calculation, etc. Remote audits are under no circumstances allowed during initial audits and site visits.
  • With remote audits, the 2 auditors must be able to communicate with each other during the audit. If they cannot physically sit together in one room due to COVID-19 measures, a videocall is allowed as an alternative.

For a complete overview of measures, we refer to the amended policy document. This is available in Dutch, German, English and French. Do you have questions? Then contact us at

Extra self analysis tool online!

NEN has developed a new (extra) online questionnaire with which companies can identify the safety culture among their own employees. An online questionnaire was already available for use for various SCL products, but it was too extensive for some types of organizations or chosen SCL product.

The new questionnaire “SAQ Compact” contains 72 questions. It is a shortened version of the SAQ Extended, which contains 233 questions. It addresses 18 organizational aspects. The questionnaires are available in the languages ​​Dutch, German, French and English.

Web tool SCL
Both questionnaires are available via the Webtool SCL and are included in each type of webtool subscription.

This is how the webtool works:

  1. The safety officer within an organization creates a new questionnaire. The calculation tool indicates how many employees should answer the questions.
  2. Then the safety officer chooses whether to use the SAQ Compact (72 questions) or the SAQ Extended (233 questions).
  3. The safety officer sends an invitation to the questionnaire with an optional explanation to (a selection of) employees via the web tool.
  4. The progress / results can be displayed on the dashboard.

Important: The choice for which questionnaire to use depends on the selected SCL product (SCL Original, SCL, SCL Light or the Approved Self Assessment). The web tool helps you make the right choice.

More information about the Webtool SCL and the free trial subscription

Measures during Corona

This week an umbrella policy has been drawn up by NEN outlining the way audits should be handled during this Corona crisis. This policy follows the guidelines (T051) of the Dutch Accrediting Body which in turn are based on international guidelines.

Although the T051 offers good guidance, it has not been prepared for audits aimed at observing behavior and culture. For this reason, an additional chapter has been devised for the Safety Culture Ladder, based on the NEN policy.

The central message is that certification bodies may postpone an audit if conducting this audit is not possible due to the imposed measures related to the Coronavirus. The certification bodies must proactively inform NEN of this postponement. The maximum deferral period for issuing the certificate is 6 months.

Conducting remote audits is permitted in a number of exceptional cases and only in areas where no behavioral observations need to be made. For all conditions and details, see the policy document with measures.

Stay healthy.

‘New products and names Safety Culture Ladder’

The Safety Culture Ladder (Veiligheidsladder) introduces “new” products and product names. These products where initially only available within the “TenneT pilot’ and within the Dutch Governance Code Safety in Construction, but will now be made generally available. Parties can choose, next to full certification, for a different SCL product from the 1st of March 2020 onwards.

Initially there was only one SCL product available: the SCL certification, in which every year a full (100%) audit is required. On request by TenneT a pilot was started in 2016 to work with deviated products. These SCL deviations were only acknowledged by TenneT and used for their own contractors. The Dutch Governance Code Safety in Construction also decided to use these products.

The Committee of Experts (CvD) has recently decided to take the products out of the pilot context and make them generally available for the market.

The products
The SCL certification scheme remains the same, in other words: nothing changes in regard to substantive requirements. There will be a difference in audit forms.

  1. With a SCL Original, a 100% audit is performed every year.
  2. With a SCL, only in the first year a 100% audit is performed and in year 2 and 3 a follow-up audit is performed of 40%.
  3. With a SCL Light a 40% audit is required in the first year. In year 2 and 3 a check on the action plan is performed.
  4. The Approved Self Assessment is a self assessment, carried out by the organisation itself. The certification authority only checks if it is carried out in a correct manner and performs a check on action plan in year 2 and 3.

Both the SCL Original and the SCL provide a certificate if the audit is concluded successfully. The achieved step is stated on the certificate.

The SCL Light does not provide a certificate, but a statement on which a ‘step indication’ is stated.

The Approved Self Assessment does not provide a certificate, nor a statement and therefore not a step indication. The certification authority only provides a document of proof stating that the self assessment has been performed according to the required process.

More information about the product names and the audit requirements can be found in the CvD decision.

The products are available per 1st of March 2020. In the coming months all relevant documentation will be adapted to the new products.

The alteration also requires new templates for certificates and statements. These will be adjusted as soon as possible and will be available, ultimately on the 1st of April, for certification authorities.

Adjustments in the online register
The register of certificate holders on the website will be amended. The new product names will be added. The certificates and statements (current SAQ+ register) will be combined into one register. As soon as this is completed, it will be visible on the website. Certification authorities and project partners will be informed separately about the changes.

The Approved Self Assessment
For one of the new products, the Approved Self Assessment, a new SAQ webtool will be launched. This will soon be available online. This compacted SAQ must be used for the Approved Self Assessment. For more information, see the CvD decision.

Safety Culture Ladder audits for smaller organizations

The basic principle is that every company must be able to participate in the Safety Culture Ladder. For smaller companies, the certification costs for the Safety Culture Ladder are high in relation to the total cost level of the organization. In order to make the Safety Culture Ladder applicable to all organizations, a number of changes have been implemented for companies with fewer than 66 employees


Changes as of 1 January 2019

  1. Adaptation of the man-day table for small organizations (for companies up to 65 employees). The man-day table is divided into several scales, so that the number of audit days for a smaller organization is more proportionate to the size of the organization.
  2.  The Safety Culture Ladder is applicable to companies with at least 5 employees. The lower limit of 5 employees applies to a full certification audit (SCL) and to SAQ+.
  3. Group interviews are permitted for organizations up to 10 employees.
  4. The certification fee for audits of less than 8 days has been reduced. The adjustments have been incorporated in the ‘Rates Safety Culture Ladder 2019’

Click here for Document 2018-11 Safety Culture Ladder audits for smaller organizations including the revised man-day table for small organizations


Safety Culture Ladder at The Safety Summit in Schelle, Belgium

On 25 April 2018 The Safety Summit will take place in Schelle, Belgium

The Safety Summit is the conference on sustainable safety and wellbeing at work, where people who are inspired by safety and wellbeing can discover innovative safety insights. This year the focus is on:
– person behind the employee
– smart technology
– circular safety
A workshop on the Safety Culture Ladder is part of the conference programme: ‘The Safety Culture Ladder,  incentive for improvement?’

For more information, see programme ‘The Safety Summit’

Safety Culture Ladder present at the annual congress on ‘Industrial Safety’

On Thursday 25 January 2018 the Annual Congress on Industrial Safety took place in DeFabrique in Utrecht. Knowledge sharing and interaction among professionals are the main topics of the congress. The latest developments in machine safety, process safety, explosion protection and all aspects of safety culture and safety behaviour are addressed during the day.

The Safety Culture Ladder was represented at the stand of NEN. Many questions emerged about the applications of the Safety Culture Ladder , its added value and the required steps for certification. The Safety Culture Ladder was addressed by Keynote speaker Mr Guido Fricke, Senior Manager Corporate Procurement at TenneT, who presented the Safety Culture Ladder as one of the instruments TenneT uses to achieve safe behaviour and attitude in their own organization and throughout their supply chain. For more information see TenneT programme Safety by Contractor Management.

Click here for the questions and answers of the send-to-stage application at the Industrial Safety Conference.