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The Benefits of Involving Your Employees in New Safety Efforts

April 20, 2016

safety-conversation.jpgIn a recent blog post, I discussed the importance of management’s commitment to safety in the workplace. For a safety program to be successful, employees must believe that management prioritizes their well-being and that the policies implemented will reduce risks around the job site.

However, this is just the first critical step in garnering a strong workplace safety culture. In order to develop an effective safety program or update an existing one, employee involvement in the process is key. This does not just mean bringing in a handful of employees to help define safety policies, employee involvement is an ongoing process geared toward individual accountability and ownership of the company’s safety program during one’s daily work performance.

Employee involvement in organizational safety includes things such as:

  • Working with management to create or revise safety policies/rules

  • Having input into decisions concerning employee safety

  • Providing feedback to management about safety concerns around the workplace

  • Taking personal responsibility for minimizing the hazards in one’s workspace

  • Talking to coworkers about high-risk behaviors and helping them develop risk reduction strategies

  • Serving as a member in advisory or specific purpose committees

  • Conducting site inspections

  • Investigating safety incidents

  • Analyzing routine hazards in a job or process, and identifying ways to reduce exposures

  • Proctoring safety training sessions with coworkers and new hires

  • Reporting hazards around the job site

There are important things to consider when seeking to engage employees in safety program matters. Management must demonstrate trust in staff that they are able to make tough decisions and exhibit safe behaviors around the workplace. This also shows employees that management values their input and open communication, which leads to a better overall understanding of the most urgent safety needs.

Providing employees with a big picture view of the program and why policies are in place can help increase buy-in to the program and allows for new perspectives on how existing safety rules might be improved. Giving employees the authority and resources to manage some safety program elements creates a sense of ownership over their personal safety, and be sure they know that they are encouraged to hold all coworkers accountable, even management, without any threat of retaliation. The goal here is to motivate employees to be active in building the organization’s safety culture, and involvement should be reinforced.

Concerning the safety goals of the organization, it also makes sense to include employees in the process:

  • Frontline employees have the most frequent exposures to workplace hazards, so they have a vested interest in following an effective safety program

  • Group decisions about workplace safety benefit from a wider range of experiences and situations when employees at all levels are involved

  • Employees will be more likely to buy-in to a safety program for which they had input

The benefits of employee involvement in safety efforts speak for themselves. Research has found that employees who are involved in their safety programs display greater job satisfaction and work performance than those who are not. Furthermore, organizations that encourage employee involvement in the safety program tend to significantly reduce accident and injury rates. For example, companies that utilize OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program experience 52% fewer employee days lost, on average, than their industry competitors.

Therefore, if you want to see a reduction in incident rates at your organization, we strongly advocate employee involvement in building your safety program and culture.

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Craig White Craig White is a doctoral student in the industrial/organizational psychology program at Texas A&M University. His research domains include selection test development, training, and team processes and performance. He has been closely involved in applied safety and health research projects at the Michael E. DeBakey VAMC Health Services Research and Development CoE in Houston, TX.