Workplace safety and workforce participation

Workplace safety

Why are EHS experts in companies supporting safety programs that are more employee input-driven? How do such approaches eliminate the ‘us’ and ‘them’ and encourage the ‘we’ approach?

No, the safety professionals aren’t shirking from their responsibilities. Instead, they are being receptive to employee input on hazards, corrective and preventive actions and health and safety programs. As much as they are proactive in protecting their workforce and share its accountability, they are equally cheering participation in safety initiatives.

Similarly, the management should be keen to adopt this two-way process wherein ‘talk, listen, review and discuss’ can help find practical solutions and comply with the end results. As employees are equally aware of the risks involved in their workplace, they must contribute in managing them.

Read on to see how organizations should encourage participation in employees to create the safest work environment.

Provide access to safety information

To create seamless interactions between safety and the workforce, employers should share relevant health and safety information to foster trust amongst their employees. The specific information may include the Safety Data Sheets (SDS), injury and illness data, workplace and incident inspection outcomes etc.

This free flow of aggregated safety data is nothing but means through which employees can make calculated decisions and provide inputs for corrective measures. They would feel responsible enough to use the tools and equipment safely, wear PPE and avoid horseplay (risk-taking behavior).

Boost organization-wide participation

During training sessions, team-talks or interactions with EHS supervisors, a meaningful participation from the employees promotes open dialogue. When employees realize that they are ‘the ones’ directly affected by safety and health hazards, they develop interest in safety programs and are willing to offer ideas on-job. They can then further translate their knowledge received to work on tasks.

Opening up communication channels and platforms, where knowledge sharing is welcomed, helps in identifying the topical safety concerns the organization is facing. Employees develop a good understanding of the organization, its safety vision and goals. Also, trainings that include mentoring by experienced professionals boost comprehension and learnings. This effort on behalf of the employer is effective, as the employees would then scrutinize potential employers on the basis of health and safety.

Encourage ‘reporting’ habits

Reporting accidents, near-misses or unsafe behaviour can help in making the work and workplace safer. If the workforce is hesitant to report any close call or hazard, an option of anonymous reporting reduces the fear of reprisal. Safety experts should emphasize on empowering all the employees to initiate or request a temporary suspension or shutdown of any operation they believe to be unsafe. Such records can help analyze the data and determine the focus of the observers.

One easy way to report issues is through EHS mobile solutions. Anyone who encounters or visualizes an incident, near-miss or a hazard, can conveniently report them through their smartphones or tablets. In this way, every safety instance is documented and ‘trialed’ with employees to receive their feedback before the actual decisions are made.

All these aspects are the attributes of a positive safety culture. Through such traits, seniors can set a good example to new recruits and help them on the health and safety aspects of their work. When such exchanges permeate in a company’s atmosphere, safety is no longer hyped or perceived as something burden. It is instilled within everyone’s behavior and reflects in their actions.

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