What supports an environment that enhances employee engagement, job satisfaction, and safety? To answer this question we sat down with Jake Woolfenden, Owner of Summit Safety Group, a safety consulting group company that works with companies across the nation. In part one of our series with Woolfenden, we looked at the first 4 factors that should be a part of any safety leader’s checklist.
Keep reading for more information on the rest of the safety checklist found below:
- Support for behavior-based safety.
- A formalized safety policy.
- Strong and effective safety leaders.
- A discipline system that’s implemented across the organization.
- Empowered and motivated employees.
- Comfort with reporting issues related to safety.
- Effective and regular communication about safety and health.
- A high-functioning safety committee.
- Utilization of both leading and lagging indicators of safety.
5. Empowered and motivated employees.
Are you empowering your teammates to take part in their own safety, or do you feel like you’re a one person operation to be the safety program for them? “The way you answer that greatly matters, and your success as a leader depends on it as well,” says Woolfenden.
One of the biggest indicators that employees are empowered and motivated to support safety practices is high participation rates in safety programs. “But what we see, far too often, is a message of ‘cause and effect’ when it comes to poor safety practices, and what can be resulting injuries. What we often miss is a consistent message of promoting personal responsibility in each employee.”.
It’s powerful when you can teach your teams what it means to practice personal responsibility as it relates to safety. “Empower them and avoid enabling them.”
There can be many underlying reasons why a lack of accountability and/or responsibility become problems for companies, but Woolfenden says all workers must believe you have to work at keeping yourself safe.
Safe workplaces don’t rely on regulation alone to be safe. “It’s not OSHA’s job, nor the safety manager’s sole responsibility to ensure every choice you make throughout the day is a wise one for you and your overall health.”
Empower employees so they know that safety is their responsibility. “Yes, provide every tool and every resource possible to make these employees successful. But at the end of the day, their bodies, their well-being, their quality of life, is only going to be truly cared for by one person—that, of course, being themselves.”
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6. Comfort with reporting issues related to safety.
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Do your employees feel safe reporting a hazard or potential issue when they see it? Do they have a clear way to do so? And last, do they feel a strong personal connection to their own safety and the safety of others?
When organizations empower their teams to understand the importance of safety, the answers to these questions are “yes.”
The benefit of this kind of “shared accountability” is that employees will go above and beyond to uphold safety standards. “With that right training and tools being afforded to them, tied with personal responsibility, they then show up and each have an opportunity to fill their toolbox with different things that they can then take out to the field, or the shop with them, to apply so that they can in fact protect themselves,” explains Woolfenden.
The bottom line: employees should feel inclined or responsible to carry out the policies and procedures, and they should be equipped to do so easily.
Evidence that this exists is when a company doesn’t just “sweep things under the rug.” Rather, employees with a high degree of personal accountability and responsibility to their colleagues take pride reporting and giving feedback related to any hazards, injuries or illnesses.
7. Effective and regular communication about safety and health.
Focused, consistent messaging about safety and health can help to create loyal, productive, and accountable employees who feel respected and valued by the company. Regular, ongoing communication educates employees, helps to show the values of the company, and it helps to reinforce the right behaviors.
8. A high-functioning safety committee.
Does your safety committee help to facilitate the right, desired behaviors? Can you say with confidence it supports continuous improvement of the organization’s safety performance, in an effort to reduce workplace accidents? And last, are employees engaged with your safety committee?
“An effective safety committee, done right, really just maximizes safety leaders’ efforts by getting people involved and it adds a degree of ownership,” says Woolfenden. “If you have limited resources, but multiple locations or construction sites where you have multiple jobs, for example, a safety committee is going to help you maximize your efforts and involvement. You can get in greater buy-in from everyone this way,” says Woolfenden.
“When a safety manager becomes less of somebody that’s simply telling a worker what to do—but rather acts as a facilitator—and helping someone to get to their own answer, that is beneficial to the company. A safety committee can help this occur, which is another reason why a strong safety committee is so important.”
9. Utilization of leading and lagging indicators.
Most organizations utilize the lagging indicators—that is, what incidents have occurred. Lagging indicators would include what’s happened in the past such as lost workdays, workers’ comp costs, or injury frequency. As safety leaders know, the drawback is that these do very little for future prevention of accidents and injuries. The ability to quickly and precisely identify high risk situations is something that should be on every safety leader’s checklist for safety performance.
Leading indicators help safety professionals reduce risk by looking at proactive factors such as safety training, audits, inspections, number of people involved on a safety committee, and how many people participate in ensuring workplace safety. When a company is able to measure and respond in this way, strengths and weaknesses in the company can be better identified and resolved.
“Keep Fighting the Good Fight”
No checklist can capture every component that’s found in an accountable, engaged and high-performing culture that drives continuous improvement. But most companies have areas on the checklist where practices and norms could be improved.
“Be encouraged—and keep fighting the good fight,” says Woolfenden. “For you, it’s about valuing human life, and having a strong desire to see hard working men and women be able to maintain a high quality of life so they can enjoy their family and friends, weekends, free time, and of course, their career as well,” he says.
“Whether you are a manager who is trying your best to get your team on board with changes in your safety program, or an owner that’s trying to find that delicate balance between investment in the programs and profits to keep your company running, I just want you to remember that safety is a worthy cause.”
Woolfenden says he wants other to take as much pride in their role, in in their daily work, as they can. “There aren’t many jobs that provide you with the chance to place other’s health and well-being as the top priority,” he says.
Support Behavior-Based Safety Practices
Are you doing everything you can to empower your employees and enhance their performance? While most companies say safety is a priority, over one third of employees feel that their employers prioritize productivity over safety.