Creating An Open & Honest Safety Environment
by Stephen Zasadil, WSRCA safety consultant, president, SNK Services LLC
(Editor’s Note: Stephen Zasadil spent ten years as a safety of flight operator with the United States Navy before beginning his career as a safety compliance consultant in 2009. He currently works with companies across the United States to provide OSHA compliance information, documentation, and training.)
As an OSHA safety consultant with 15 years of experience, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all those years, it’s that communication is key. Effective communication between employees and management regarding the effectiveness of the company safety program can make all the difference in creating a safe and healthy workplace.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Wow, another safety article. How thrilling.” But hear me out, folks. When it comes to safety, there’s no room for complacency. It’s not the most glamorous topic, I’ll give you that. But trust me, taking safety seriously is way cooler than being laid up in the hospital with a broken leg.
So, let’s talk about communication. As I mentioned earlier, if there are deficiencies in the field, the workers on the ground will know first. They’re the ones doing the heavy lifting, literally, and they’re the ones who see potential hazards and safety concerns firsthand. Their feedback is essential in identifying potential safety issues and hazards.
That’s why creating an open and honest communication environment between management and employees is critical. If employees feel empowered to speak up about safety concerns without fear of retaliation, it’s a win-win situation. Management can address safety issues in a timely manner, and employees can feel valued and appreciated for their input.
How can we encourage open communication? One way is to establish safety committees or safety suggestion boxes. These tools provide an opportunity for employees to voice their safety concerns, and they give management a platform to address these issues. It’s like a virtual suggestion box, but instead of submitting your ideas for a new coffee machine, you’re submitting your concerns about potentially life-threatening hazards.
Of course, training is also essential when it comes to safety. Employees must be trained on safety procedures and protocols not only during the onboarding process, but also on an ongoing basis. Regular training reinforces safety messages and ensures that safety remains a top priority for everyone.
That being said, training alone isn’t enough. Management must also provide feedback to employees, both positive and negative. Positive reinforcement is an excellent way to encourage safe behavior, while constructive feedback can help correct unsafe behavior. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good pat on the back? Accolades have also been shown to instill a sense of friendly competition. Imagine all of your workers competing to be the safest on the job.
Regular safety audits are another essential piece of the puzzle in achieving effective communication. Independent third-party audits can ensure that the safety program is being followed and identify any deficiencies that need to be addressed. Sharing the results of the audit with employees and providing a plan of action for addressing any issues identified can create a sense of transparency and promote trust.
Lastly, having a process in place for reporting injuries and near misses is crucial. When employees report incidents, investigations can determine the root cause of the incident and provide valuable information that can be used to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. Reporting incidents without fear of retaliation is critical, and it shows that management takes safety seriously. Studying the cause of a near miss will be instrumental in preventing that incident from becoming an injury in the future.
To sum things up, effective communication is key to the success of any safety program. Creating an environment where employees feel empowered to speak up about safety concerns without fear of retaliation, providing regular training and feedback, conducting regular safety audits, and having a process in place for reporting injuries and near misses are all critical components of effective communication. Let’s work together to create a culture of safety that’s seamless.