Why are companies encouraging employees to drive safety programs? They've learned that the more workers participate in safety, the safer the workplace.
Among the many advantages to greater employee involvement in safety programs, you'll find these:
Workers realize that as the ones most affected by workplace safety and health hazards, they have a vested interest in effective protection programs.
You lose the “us” them mentality and become "we."
Workers are much more likely to support programs in which they've had input. Team decisions allow you to tap into a broad range of employee expertise and experience.
Employees who are encouraged to offer their ideas about safety, whose suggestions are taken seriously, and whose contributions are rewarded are more satisfied and productive, and less likely to take risks.
Everybody Plays a Role
For an employee-driven safety culture to be successful, all employees--from corporate officers to new hires--need to be fully engaged in making and keeping the workplace safe. Everybody plays an important role.
Safety management's role is to implement and guide the employee-driven safety culture. Safety management must also review and revise safety programs to help drive continuous safety improvement.
Senior management's role is to visibly endorse and actively support workplace safety programs. Senior management must also empower employees by being receptive to employee input on hazards, corrective action, and safety and health programs.
Supervisors' role is to give employees the tools, information, and training they need to work safely. Supervisors must also be proactive in protecting their workers and share accountability with their employees for safety in their departments.
Employees' role is to take ownership of safety by sharing responsibility for their own and co-workers' safety. Employees must also help drive continuous safety improvement by setting personal safety goals, by targeting unsafe work practices, and by sharing their safety stories and ideas with co-workers.
Safety teams' and committees' role is to promote safety throughout the workplace. These groups need the full support of safety and general management as well as the support of engaged supervisors and active and vocal employees so that they can help change and improve processes, procedures, and programs.
How to Encourage Ownership
For an employee-driven safety culture to succeed, employees must take ownership in workplace safety. Here are some suggestions on how to encourage ownership:
Point out that all workplace accidents and injuries are preventable but that it is individuals who prevent them. Ultimately, each employee is responsible for his or her own safety. This is a very powerful notion, one that many employees may not have entertained. They may still have the mentality that their safety is your job.
Identify safety leaders. Put the spotlight on people in the organization who really care about safety and have extraordinary safety records. Other workers will want to share in the limelight and follow these leaders.
Recognize safe performance. Recognition is reinforcement. Praise someone for a positive behavior, and you'll see more of that behavior.
Encourage employees to talk to co-workers about safety, observe one another's safety performance, and comment on safe and unsafe performance.
Ask for employee input about safety programs and performance and act on their suggestions.
Let employees or teams of employees implement solutions to safety problems.
Enlist experienced employees to train other employees.
Encourage widespread employee participation in safety committees, safety teams, accident investigation teams, and the like.
Make hazard and incident reporting easy and blame-free.
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