Encouraging employee involvement in safety is one of the best strategies to achieve safety greatness.
Safety leaders looking to improve their safety performance are always looking for new ways to encourage employees to take responsibility for safety. Challenges arise when they attempt a culture shift via traditional approaches to managing safety. Safety Management expert Dr. Dan Peterson in his new book Authentic Involvement details how active participation within an organization's safety environment is paramount to keeping these workers safe. While Dr. Peterson details six criteria in establishing Safety Greatness, he states that many organizations fail to utilize or even realize the resounding benefits of the most important one: active participation. There may even be systems in place at an organization that inhibits active participation!
Beyond the Suggestion Box
Active participation requires a variety of channels to make workers to feel involved; vague mandates and strict rule-enforcement will not inspire them to take accountability. It requires safety leaders to be transparent with workers, valuing their involvement, and holding respectful two-way dialogue. Participation can only be mustered if the desire comes from within, which will only emerge from workers if they are properly inspired. It will never emerge if it is treated as a means to an end. This is where Dr. Peterson's titular Authentic Involvement – defined as ”worker participation where the worker engages in activities that satisfy that person's human needs, and thus are motivational” – comes into play.
Dr. Peterson's strategy makes sense: front-line employees will have the best understanding of how to overcome workplace hazards. Their experience is invaluable to improving safety performance; when provided the opportunity to be involved in the safety process, these employees will offer practical ideas for improvements.
There are a number of ways to have employee involvement in safety. For example, have your supervisors ask employees how their job can be made safer or if there are any overlooked hazards at the workplace. You can train your supervisors on how to recognize teachable moments throughout the workday. You can also have employees join their supervisors during a hazard inspection.
Involvement Gets Results
Creating a culture of Authentic Involvement brings with it a wealth of positive outcomes:
- Improvements to retention
- Increased job satisfaction
- Overall improvements in safety performance
Dr. Peterson says it best in his book: ”employees are perfectly willing to accept their responsibility when management has first demonstrated that they are fulfilling their responsibility.” Front-line workers excel at detecting inauthenticity, which means you must be genuine and meaningful when you engage them to have them get involved in safety. When you prove to them that their involvement is legitimate, they will be motivated to collaborate with you to achieve safety greatness.