Status of the revision of SCL

Ron van der Aa and Kaat van der Haar


In our October 2022 newsletter, we gave you an update on developments regarding the revision of the SCL into SCL 2.0. This newsletter will update you what has been happening since October 2022 and we also look ahead to the coming months.

The Validation of SCL 2.0

In our October 2022 newsletter, we informed you about the validation process we had set up. The validation served to establish whether the new version of the SCL (SCL 2.0) was clear and worked well for organizations and auditors in practice.

To enable the auditors employed by the Certifying Bodies (CBs) to carry out the validations properly, NEN held workshops for the auditors involved. These workshops focused on: the content of the themes, the new assessment system, how to perform validations and how to report.

The validations were carried out by many CBs in both the Netherlands and Germany.

The participating CBs’ auditors filled out an online questionnaire to provide their feedback on the new methodology. Feedback was also received from some certificate holders involved in the validation, both via an online questionnaire and by email.

Positive feedback – overall impression

There has been a lot of positive feedback on SCL 2.0.

Examples of comments made include: ‘easier to read’, ’there is a good distinction between organization and behaviour’, ’this lets us discuss achieving the goal rather than how to score the highest number of points possible’, ‘it looks more transparent’ and ’the levels are well described and match the philosophy’.

3.b. Points of concern – overall impression

Some concerns were raised as well, mainly about the new assessment method.

Examples of comments made include: ’the dividing line between the steps can be quite thin’, ‘afraid of discussions with customers about the outcome of the assessment’ and ‘how do you ensure all auditors conduct similar assessments now that numerical scores have been abolished?’

Some comments also revealed that not everything is clear yet. For example, that it is the auditor’s overall impression that matters (and not that everything has to be 100% correct).

The public comment round

A public comment round also took place in late 2022, both in the Netherlands and Germany. We advertised it through our network for the SCL, such as the CvD (Committee of Experts), the CB consultation, the Kennisplatform (Knowledge Platform) and the Germany Working Group.

The overall conclusion was that the comments from the public comment round were very similar to the comments from the validations.

The SCL 2.0 expert group, consisting of Arno de Graaff, Frank Thoonen, Gerd-Jan Frijters, Hans Aarns, Robert Taen and Taco Buissant des Amorie, discussed all responses from the validations and the public comment round. All respondents will be informed shortly about what has been done with their responses.

The outcome of the validation and the public comment round were discussed by the SCL Committee of Experts in early February 2023. They subsequently agreed to:

During this transition period, the following rules will apply;

  1. Certificates issued before the effective date of SCL 2.0:

A transition period of three years starting on the effective date of SCL 2.0 will apply. During the transition period, certificates for the old version (SCL 1.0) will remain valid if the last day of an audit for SCL 1.0 was before the effective date of SCL 2.0 (01-01-2024). Certificate holders can then be certified according to the old version of the standard (SCL 1.0) for up to three years after the effective date of SCL 2.0 (until 01-01-2027) at the latest.

CBs will no longer be permitted to perform initial or recertification audits for the old version (SCL 1.0) 12 months after the effective date of SCL 2.0 (i.e. with effect from 01-01-2025),  Any certificates based on SCL 1.0 issued during these 12 months will also remain valid for three years, i.e. until 31 December 2027 at the latest.

With effect from 1 January 2028, only SCL 2.0 certificates will be valid.

The auditors and SCL 2.0

Numerical scores will no longer be used in the new assessment method. Auditors should form an ‘overall’ picture of the organization’s level of safety awareness. The descriptions in SCL 2.0 are useful tools for this. The numerical scores have been abolished to make the assessment system less figures-based, since this does not match the character of the SCL.

Many auditors have already been doing it in ’the new way’. They already look at the overall picture and do not merely base their judgement on the number of points scored. For some other auditors, this will be a new way of working.

In the next few months, we will team up with the CBs to give the auditors further training. The harmonization of the assessment will be a major focal point in these training sessions. How do auditors deal with dilemmas? How do they ensure good reporting that shows the organization what is going well and what can be improved? In addition, the training courses will also focus on soft skills and interview techniques.

NEN has developed a training plan for this purpose, distinguishing between a refresher course for currently certified SCL auditors and a training course for new auditors.

This training plan is now being developed in cooperation with some members of the Committee of Experts. We plan to hold the first training courses and refresher courses in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Developments for the coming months

When SCL 2.0 is published, the following and other elements must have been adapted and/or developed: 

In addition, an explanatory document for SCL 2.0 is currently under preparation.

The purpose of this document is to provide an explanation of SCL and the standard as well as an explanation of how to use the ladder. It will provide more information on why a new version of the Safety Culture Ladder is needed, how it is structured and its possible interpretation. This document will also answer the question as to the necessity for organizations to continue to improve using the SCL as a tool.

Practical examples will also be included for various topics.

We will update you on developments on the various topics in a future edition of the SCL Newsletter.

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