“How can I engage my people in health and safety?”
This is a critical question but it can be very challenging to get started.
To help you out, we have asked top health and safety experts to share their opinions on what makes for good staff engagement practices.
Here’s five things they had to say:
Know your people
Your safety program does not have to be one-size-fits all. People have different personalities, and you can tailor your health and safety program so that each individual is more likely to respond to it.
1 in 4 workers are assessed as high risk based on their personality
“Personality has a strong influence on our behavior. Research shows that 1 in 4 workers are assessed as high risk based on their personality . This does not mean that the high risk person will have an incident, it means that they are more likely to be involved in an incident due to their inherited “knee jerk” response to a situation. If we assess someone’s personality and provide them with the tools to manage their own high risk areas, their behavior to a given situation can change”
Julie Allwright , Initial Response & Safety, Australia
Be one of them
“Zero Harm” initiatives can backfire – injury hiding and safety-cop culture, can develop. When the “safety team” holds sole responsibility for mitigating risks and accidents for the whole organisation, safety inspectors can sometimes be seen as “compliance cops” or “over-the-top” bureaucrats in the eyes of those they’re trying to protect.
This helps no one.
Most of the experts we surveyed stressed the importance of being perceived as “one of the team”:
If you are responsible for welders and you don’t know how to weld, go to a trade school to learn welding.
“Be one of them. Dress like the employees. Take your breaks when the employees do. Lunch where they lunch.
Learn how to actually perform the employee’s jobs. If you are responsible for welders and you don’t know how to weld, go to a trade school to learn welding”
No matter how busy you are or what you have planned at the start of the day before you start any work, say good morning to all staff and supervisors.
Allocate 15 minutes a day to spend time and talk to staff members doesn’t have to be about safety and take an active interest this helps the lines of communication open and for you to be ‘seen’
Adam Jordan, Jordan Consulting Services, Australia
Show your commitment
Good intentions need to be supported by good actions. You need to demonstrate that health and safety policy and programs are there for a reason, and that reason is because you genuinely care about your staff’s well-being:
Establish teams of in-house workers charged with identifying an OH&S issue and developing a solution. They are resourced with a technical person and one manager. Importantly, management commits in advance a fixed sum of money to putting the team’s final solution into place. This shows management is genuine in their support. What happens? Inspiring, creative ideas appear, “owned” by the people who conceive them. On completion, a presentation brings everybody positively on board in a “win-win” outcome.
Mark Dohrmann, Dohrmann Consulting, Australia
Showing your commitment is also about putting workers’ safety at the top of your priority list and being prepared to stand up for what you think is right:
Don’t be a “yes man” for management
Don’t be a “yes man” for management. Always do whatever is best for the safety and health of the employee, regardless of how management (and your supervisor) might view it.
If incidents happen, it is important to do a root-investigation and learn from it so that such unfortunate events won’t repeat itself. Moreover, try to put the blame on the injured person as “most accidents are caused by a failure of the management system, not the individual employee”, according to Dave Weber, Safety Awakening.
Also, “after an on the job injury, make regular calls to the injured employee to see how they are doing, and to verify that the insurance company is taking care of their medical bills and paying their benefits.” he further adds.
Empower and encourage staff
What’s worse than your staff having absolutely no interest in health and safety? To receive a staff health and safety suggestion and do nothing about it.
By not following up, you are sending the message that you don’t care. And if you don’t bother then why should they? Therefore, it is important that:
When you receive suggestions, either follow up on them or get back to the employee who made the suggestion on why it was not followed
Furthermore, companies should look for ways to encourage employees to raise concerns and speak up about health and safety related issues at work. A simple way to do this is to:
Encourage staff to raise issues and seek their input about “HOW” things could be done better. Empower staff to ask the question “WHY?”
Adam Jordan, Jordan Consulting Services, Australia
Talk the talk! Walk the walk!
To get everyone on board, you must show them that you are 100% committed, too.
This means that you need to “set an example by following all work and safety rules yourself” otherwise people “will not have the faith or belief in what is trying to be introduced” (Dave Weber, Safety Awakening ).
Building and creating a safety culture at work is the key to having meaningful staff engagement and health and safety participation.
Hopefully these expert insights above get you thinking, and help you to put in place practices that improve your workplace health and safety culture.