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What Makes Managing Employee Health and Safety Programs Around the World So Difficult?

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on October 8, 2021 at 7:13 AM

Real talk: managing employee health and safety is hard. Between employee attitudes, managing the budget, and trying to stay one step ahead of ever-changing regulations, safety is not a job for the faint of heart.

What makes managing employee health and safety programs around the world so difficult?

Unfortunately, you have a lot of challenges on your plate. But among all the safety programs we work with, we see a few common themes crop up the most. Here are some of the biggest challenges facing EHS teams and what you can do to counter them.

Engagement

Back in 2016, Gallup analyzed more than 82,000 business units with 1.8 million total employees across 230 total organizations. The results were crystal clear: organizations with higher workplace engagement see fewer accidents than those with low engagement.

There are no two ways about it. Engaged employees are safe employees. These are the employees who pay attention, who notice small details, who care enough to notice the small things–and do something about a problem.

Without employee engagement, you don’t have a safe workforce.

Unfortunately, engagement remains one of the hardest things to build. As Warren Buffet once said, it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. The same thing goes for safety engagement. To drive engagement, take your cues from Paul O’Neill’s famed safety-first tenure at Alcoa–be consistent in your messaging, reinforce that safety comes first, and then follow through on your word. Demonstrate through your actions that accidents are the enemy, and an accident is a failure of the whole organization.

Shortcuts

Another common challenge is shortcuts, which go hand-in-hand with disengagement.

Picture a long-time employee. This is someone who’s been around the block a hundred times. They know how to do their job so well they could teach someone else to do it while drunk and half asleep. In other words, they’re confident that they know what they’re doing.

So, they get arrogant, or careless, or just plain rushed. And they cut corners.

The issue of cutting corners is always reinforced by poor management. If management shows employees that performance and safety are separate, and performance is more important than safety, employees will cut corners.

Instead, reinforce the message that safety and strong performance are one and the same. This should be reflected in performance reviews. A good performance review should include measures of employee safety performance–not just a lack of accidents, but also positive behaviors like safety checks before each task or stopping work when they see an unsafe situation.

By rewarding these behaviors in performance evaluations, you teach employees that safety is part of their job. And that way lies engagement.

What Makes Managing Employee Health and Safety Programs Around the World So Difficult? The Wrong Tools for the Job

What makes managing employee health and safety programs around the world so difficult? In short, the wrong mindsets and the wrong tools.

You bring the mindset, and we bring the tools, with safety management software that makes it easy to understand where you are and what you need to improve. So if you’re ready to invest in a safe, engaged workforce, get in touch today to learn more about how our software can help.

Topics: Workplace Health and Safety, EHS Management, Safety Management, Safety Culture, Human Resources

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