The Government’s health and safety changes puts more emphasis on safety being an all-employee duty that is spread throughout each business.
While setting up safety meetings or introducing a new policy is relatively easy to do, creating a culture where people actively “live and breathe health and safety”, can be much more challenging.
It’s not going to happen overnight.
Breaking down the employee involvement mystery
If you notice your coworker is operating at risk, what would you do?
- Warn them straight away
- Not doing anything
while 90% agreed that they should speak up, only about 60% said they would actually speak up and provide this critical feedback.
Research conducted by Safety Performance Solutions Inc. (SPS) shows that 90% of the people agreed that they should speak up.
However only 60% of them said they would actually provide this critical feedback.
What stops people from speaking up?
There’re usually three reasons:
- Internal conflict – “It’s not my job” mentality: this can be common in organisations that create a siloed safety department. When staff do not see health and safety as part of their responsibility, many people will hesitate to give feedback.
- Not competent enough: This can be the result of (1) lack of understanding and knowledge of safety best practice, and (2) a business failing to provide an environment where speaking up against malpractice is acceptable.
- Don’t want to insult others: Especially if the person they are trying to warn is in a higher position in the organisation.
To effectively boost health and safety performance, organisations should create an open and transparent communication environment for staff.
The relevant question here is how.
Building an open communication culture
Research has shown that in order to build a culture of open communication, these steps should be followed:
People need to be constantly informed about what’s happening around them: why certain things are taking place and especially how health and safety fits into the agenda.
Source: Harrison Grierson
Health and safety initiatives should be part of everyone’s everyday working life. Activities like employee-led observation and near miss reporting should be adopted by all employees, not just people in charge of safety departments.
One of the most challenging things in health and safety is to get people to report near miss incidents. This is because reporting these incidents means additional work, and often nothing is carried out once reports are filed.
Additionally, reporting these incidents might also jeopardize their position (or their coworkers’).
Some solutions to improve transparency are:
- Introduce an easy and efficient near-miss reporting system
- Risk resolutions should be communicated back to everyone in the organisation
- Implement reward-based reporting initiatives
One of the ways to demonstrate commitment in addressing health and safety issues is to reward risk reporting. It is just as important if not more that the leaders talk the talk and walk the walk by setting a high personal example.
- Joint problem solving
Did you know that:
- 90% workers believed that they should be included in the decision making process, but
- Over 40% of them reported that their managers “consistently failed” to seek inputs from them.
People want to be heard – they want to see that their concerns and input are of significance and are genuinely valued.
Joint problem solving can strengthen employee-employer relationships, and develop mutual trust – the idea here is that everyone can and should actively take ownership of problems.