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People management and workplace safety often overlap, though many companies don’t know how to navigate this overlap gracefully. That’s because HR professionals are often asked to wear safety hats that they may not be fully equipped to handle, while safety professionals view HR as stepping on their toes.
The best way to keep both sides working together (and protect employees) is to know your people management goals relative to your workplace safety goals. Here are a few to keep in mind.
Your foremost goal in people management is simple: establish open communication.
For people managers and EHS managers alike, open communication is critical to doing your job. That’s because in order to be effective, you need a strong foundation of employee trust.
Your employees should always feel comfortable speaking their minds to you. They should also feel confident that if they speak up, they’re going to be heard. Furthermore, employees have a right under OSHA regulations to speak up about safety issues without fear of reprisal.
First, be aware of the role of perception in establishing a transparent workplace. A closed door is a perfect example of this. You might close the door to eat your lunch break in peace, but a closed door has a subtle psychological impact. Even if you’re generally open to listening, a closed door sends a message that you’re closed for business.
It’s also important to recognize the overlapping roles of person managers and EHS managers – and why that overlap is actually to your benefit.
Employee misbehavior (or failure to abide by proper safety procedures) is a perfect example of this.
Employee horseplay is a safety risk, which means that safety managers have to be involved to resolve it. However, HR is also responsible for intervening to address the issue, especially if disciplinary action is required. EHS managers may not understand the legal or liability risks attached to a situation, which is why HR needs the lead.
On the other hand, many person managers lack basic safety knowledge, such as what constitutes a recordable injury or incident. Given that HR is often tasked with recordkeeping, that puts your company in an uncomfortable position if OSHA conducted an audit and your records were insufficient.
This is why person management and EHS management need to work together. Dedicated safety professionals understand safety requirements and regulatory obligations, while HR professionals understand liability, workers rights, and how to handle an issue without incurring a lawsuit.
Finally, make sure to use positive consequences when implementing safety measures as an HR professional.
Negative consequences are familiar to most people–these are punishments when you do something wrong. Positive consequences, on the other hand, are rewards for good behavior that encourage employees to keep up the good work.
Positive consequences help move your safety program away from a punitive model and associate positive safety results with positive outcomes, which means employees are more likely to view safety as a benefit than a chore.
People management can make all the difference in successful workplace safety procedures, but too many companies neglect their role. The best way to successfully integrate your departments is to know your people management goals and how they intersect with your safety goals.
That way, you know who has what responsibilities and how they can benefit each other when a situation arises. If you need more tools to create a more effective safety program, make sure to check out our training management and competency solutions.
For more great tips, read our blog post on How to Strengthen Your Safety Culture.
Since 2009, the team at EHS Insight have been on a mission to make the world a better place. Join us by subscribing to our Blog and receive updates on what’s new in the world of EHS, our software and other related topics.
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