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Dealing with Safety Resistance

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on April 14, 2020 at 12:29 PM

You know that safety policies can help keep your workers safe. You also know that your policies are tailored to address your biggest safety concerns and can be wildly effective in making sure workers go home happy, healthy, and safe.

There’s just one problem: your employees aren’t that keen to implement them.

Safety resistance is one of the least appreciated barriers to an effective safety program. How you deal with it determines how your safety program flourishes (or not). Here’s what you need to do to address safety resistance head-on.

Unearth It

During times of change, employers and managers can deal with resistance in four ways:

  1. Feed it
  2. Ignore it
  3. Avoid it
  4. Unearth it

The first three options all have the same thing in common: they sidestep the problem by taking it out of the manager’s hands. Or rather, the manager shrugs off their responsibility for fixing resistance by refusing to handle it, either by feeding into the resistance, ignoring it, or just plain avoiding the problem.

The only effective way to start dealing with resistance is to unearth it. In other words, acknowledge it, recognize it, and pull it into the light so that you can address it directly.

Understand It

From there, your next task is to understand the nature of the safety resistance in your team. Why are they resistant to a policy or new procedure, even if that procedure can help them?

Most of the time, employees aren’t resisting technical change – they’re resisting social change, a shift in their human relations.

Beyond just understanding the nature of resistance, you need to be understanding (i.e. empathetic) of resistance. Learn your employees’ perspective without judgment, but don’t let it overwhelm the situation. Your goal is to give employees a venue to feel heard so that you can work through resistance together.

Map It

This is where the collaborative work of dealing with resistance comes into play.

On one hand, you have to be empathetic to your employees’ concerns; otherwise, they’ll continue to resist change. On the other hand, you cannot give ground if you actually want your policy change to take effect.

Keep in mind that you can listen and be empathetic to someone without agreeing with everything they say.

Take the time to directly address your employees’ concerns and how the new safety policy aligns with the company goals. Talk them through how their concerns are addressed in the new policy and how the new work environment created by the policy aligns with their vision of the company.

The Tools to Tackle Safety Resistance

We know that tackling safety resistance is no easy task. You have to carefully toe the line between understanding and firmness, showing empathy while reminding employees that “kind of onboard” isn’t on the table.

The first step is understanding. And we can help you communicate understanding to your employees with safety training software tailored to fit your needs. Want to find out more about how we can help you overcome resistance and develop sustainable safety change? Get in touch today to start the conversation.

Topics: Workplace Health and Safety, Risk Management, Training Management, Safety Shares, Safety Management, Safety Meetings, Safety Culture, Human Resources

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