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As a safety professional, you’re trained to recognize safety issues in the workplace. More than that, you have to train your workforce to recognize safety hazards when they arise and how to go about their workday safely.
It’s easy to get comfortable in these roles. Safety professionals have the safety knowledge, workers receive it. Safety professionals set safety expectations, workers follow them. Safety professionals name safety issues, workers follow instructions to correct them.
But if this is a familiar pattern for your safety team, you’re actually missing out on the real value of safety suggestions from workers. In fact, workers can offer something that safety professionals can’t and asking them for suggestions is one of the best ways to get employees involved.
When you fall into a pattern of giving wisdom in your safety program, the inevitable effect is lecturing from on high. In these cases, it’s easy for workers to think of safety as something that happens tangentially to them.
It’s also the perfect recipe for disengaged employees.
This particular pattern sends a subtle message to employees that safety is the responsibility of safety professionals and management. Their job is simply to respond or take time away from their shift to hear a safety presentation. But safety professionals know that disengaged employees are actually the most dangerous kind of employees. Their carelessness leads to avoidable mistakes that can snowball into a real disaster if left unchecked.
Instead of lecturing employees, you have to invite them to the table. This is where safety suggestions come in.
Encouraging safety suggestions from employees helps encourage employee participation and, by proxy, employee engagement. This is for one simple reason: you’re sending a safety message that employee input matters.
The idea behind safety suggestions is to acquire input that you wouldn’t otherwise receive. Employees are uniquely positioned to provide that input because they see the lived realities of working the job every day. By encouraging safety suggestions, you’re telling employees that their perspective is important to your success. They provide something that you couldn’t attain on your own.
The key is to do something about employee safety suggestions once you receive them. Otherwise, it becomes an exercise in futility and frustration. Employees will take notice if they make suggestions and nothing happens. They internalize this as a lack of care on management’s part.
And just like that, you’re right back where you started. If anything, you’re worse off than before, because now employees are cynical about the program and disinclined to believe you when you say that their input matters.
If you want to boost employee motivation, you have to show employees that they matter. And at the root of it, safety programs are all about taking care of your employees and showing how much they matter to your business.
If you need a tool to strengthen your work observations and turn observations into action, our workplace observations software can help. Get in touch today to learn how we can boost your business from the inside out.
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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