It can be difficult to get buy-in from employees when it comes to safety efforts in the workplace. Getting employees to report hazards is no different. While getting employees to report hazards can be difficult, it is vital that they do.
Why Reporting Hazards is Important
Training employees to be able to identify hazards in the workplace is a key component in preventing injuries. Reporting hazards is as important as being able to identify them in the first place. Once reported, steps should be taken to mitigate the hazard.
This process can assist in reducing the risk of injuries to occur since there are fewer hazards present that employees can come into contact with. Both “big” and “small” hazards should be mitigated. Employees will often walk past a hazard they perceive to be minor in nature.
Reporting these minor hazards can help reduce the frequency of injuries in the workplace. For example, a hazard as small as a 2×4 in a walking path can lead to an employee tripping and breaking a bone.
All too often, the most significant hazards in a workplace are the only ones that are mitigated completely. While mitigating these hazards is key to reducing the risk of severe injury occurring, reporting all hazards is necessary to ensure safety in the workplace.
Six Tips to Get Employees to Report Hazards
Below are six different tips to ensure employees are buying into the company’s safety program when it comes to hazard reporting. These tips can be used to improve most facets of a workplace safety program, but they are tailored to get improvement with employees to report hazards.
The tips that are covered below include training, getting support from upper management, holding employees accountable, changing your messaging, starting a safety incentive program, and holding a safety contest.
Some of the tips below may be items that you are already completing. Review all of the tips to ensure that you are getting the most out of your current efforts.
Train the Employees
This first tip may be an obvious one, but training is the first step in ensuring employees are competent in the safety expectations and procedures relating to their role. Employees do not know what they do not know and common sense is not always common.
Training should be comprehensive when hiring employees as well as during ongoing training sessions as work tasks or conditions change. When it comes to hazard reporting expectations, employees should first understand what the hazards are of the work they are completing.
Employees should then be trained on what is expected of them when they identify a hazard. They must understand how they should report hazards and who to report them to. If needed, they should feel comfortable stopping work to have a hazard corrected. They should also be trained on how to follow up with management in the event that a hazard is not corrected.
Consequences should also be communicated to employees at this time to ensure that they understand the repercussions of not following the stated safety expectations.
Get Ownership or Upper Management to Show Support for Safety
One of the first steps a safety professional should take when trying to make any changes or improvements in a company’s safety program is to get buy-in from key stakeholders. Depending on the organization, stakeholders may mean the owners of the business, upper management, or someone else.
These stakeholders are the ones who allocate resources and help set the tone for the rest of the organization. If employees know that these individuals do not actually prioritize safety, why should they?
Simple acts such as having these stakeholders take part in safety training meetings or safety talks can make all the difference in getting employees to want to follow the rules. Other ideas to involve these individuals include having them do job walkthroughs or safety audits.
Change Your Messaging
Safety professionals can sometimes be bland and repetitive when communicating the importance of safety to employees and key stakeholders. Getting buy-in is not a one-size-fits-all process. Everyone is unique, and certain messaging will resonate with some employees but not all.
Do not always try to lead with “you must work safe so you are not injured” or “work safe so you can go home to your family”. Yes, these are the most important reasons as to why we work safely, but it is easy to not internalize this point after hearing it so many times.
Also, some employees do not care about getting hurt if they perceive a risk to be minor in nature. Maybe they do not have a family to go home to. These individuals may just look to get the job done, and if they have to take safety risks to do it faster, then so be it.
As a safety professional, it is vital to be able to “sell” safety in other ways. One example of selling safety differently in the construction industry is communicating how safety is important to be able for the company to bid on new work. If employees continue to take risks and injuries result, even just minor ones, it can make all of the difference in whether or not there will be enough work once the current project ends. This is due to the fact that general contractors rely so heavily on incident rates in evaluating whether or not to allow a company to bid on projects.
There are many different angles to try to get through to motivate employees to work safely. Do not be afraid to stray away from the same old talking points in order to get buy-in for safety efforts, such as reporting hazards.
Hold Employees Accountable for Safety
Incentive systems drive everything in life. If employees are not incentivized to do the right thing, such as reporting hazards, then they will not consistently choose to take the desired action. An incentive does not always mean being rewarded, it also applies to receiving disciplinary action. By choosing to take the right action, the employee does not get into trouble.
Without accountability in the workplace, the chances that you as a safety professional make any sustained progress in your company’s safety program is slim. Employees must understand the expectations when it comes to safety.
As stated above, these expectations must be set at the time of hire. It is then vital to reinforce these expectations through ongoing communication as well as being consistent in disciplining employees when the expectations are not followed.
Start a Safety Incentive Program
As mentioned above, having a consistent disciplinary policy can be an incentive for an employee to work safely. Employees can be further incentivized to take actions, such as reporting hazards, by actively rewarding employees for doing so.
It is common for companies to have a safety bonus in place, but these programs are often tailored to only rewarding employees for not having any injuries. This type of program is reactive and is only incentivizing the end result of not having an injury. OSHA has also stated that these types of incentive programs are against the law if they encourage employees to not report injuries out of fear of losing the bonus.
A safety incentive program should be proactive in nature and tailored to encourage employees to take specific actions that will lead to the ultimate goal of not having injuries. Think of it as rewarding the process, not only rewarding the end result.
If you want employees to report hazards, incorporate that action into your safety incentive program. An example is employees turning in a minimum number of hazards in a month or pulling a name out of a jar for employees who did report hazards over the last month.
Hold a Safety Contest
Safety contests can look like safety incentive programs, or they can be a part of a larger safety campaign. These contests can have a specific topic in mind, such as hazard reporting, or just be geared towards general safety in the workplace.
Hazard hunts are one example of a possible safety contest that could be implemented to encourage hazard reporting. A hazard hunt entails having employees submit hazards they identify in the workplace or during work tasks. The hazards can be verbally turned into a supervisor or safety manager. A form or card can also be produced to be put out in the field so that employees can write the hazards down and turned in.
Rewards can then be provided once the contest ends. A contest is a great way to encourage employees to get excited about sharing ideas that could reduce the risk of injuries or accidents. They are usually shorter in duration than an ongoing safety incentive program.
Getting employees to follow basic safety expectations is difficult, let alone getting them to go above and beyond day in and day out. Reporting hazards and taking ownership of getting them corrected can seem to the employee that it is not their job to do so.
By educating the employees that it takes everyone in a workplace to be responsible for safety, efforts can be made to continue to reinforce that message. The tips above can be used in conjunction to help get employees to report hazards.
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