We know that increased worker engagement with safety leads to better safety outcomes. Safety-first companies are already actively trying to increase workforce engagement and attitudes toward safety by having regular safety training/meetings, running employee recognition programs and having more management involvement in site safety activities.
However, worker disengagement remains a problem:
- "Nobody asks me for my opinion."
- "This policy makes my job harder."
- "Management is just waiting to catch me out."
So what else can we do?
The reasons for low worker safety engagement include:
- Existing policies and processes being considered difficult or making a job harder; and, them being perceived as a benefit to the company and not for the worker;
- Employees not being involved as an active participant or contributor to the design and execution of safety, feeling like 'passengers';
Decreasing dismissal of safety
Perceptions and attitudes can be a leaky bucket. For all the positives that can be scooped up, the holes won't let the volume build - negative experiences can undo improvements to engagement.
Saddling people with poorly designed policies, processes or tools can easily lead to a perception of management 'are just covering their arses', which leads to dismissal of the importance of the policy or process, and disengagement from safety.
Easing the frictions of essential policies and processes helps plug the leaks in the bucket.
An example of friction is the repetitive paperwork of starting on a new site. The purpose of the interaction gets lost in friction of the process. Can this be simplified and made easier?
Another is the friction of being policed about signing a daily briefing or a toolbox talk every day. Can we give our workforce the ability to self-direct their actions on-site?
These are small but significant improvements that add up.
Increasing the upside
Getting employees actively involved in all facets of safety has been repeatedly identified as a method to improve engagement. 1,2. In this case, involvement means getting people to be active participants in the design and execution of safety systems, policies and processes, rather than 'passengers'.
How are you engaging with your workforce in organising and deciding how work is done? Is there a feedback mechanism for them to voice their concerns?
You can get more involvement by:
- Asking for help and involvement. Rather than directing give the workforce a genuine opportunity to own safety.
- Creating an atmosphere for involvement. Be open-ended with your discussion that isn't all about what is right and what's wrong, but rather talk to the different ways an outcome can be achieved.
- Protecting them and crediting them.
Winning hearts and minds has a direct impact on safety.