Getting Staff Keen about Safety

I think the 60billion dollar question is “How do you get staff keen to be involved with safety in the workplace”?

Sometimes it is a challenge – in particular if staff have ingrained attitudes after years at their jobs and believe the whole ‘safety issue’ is a waste of time. It’s difficult for Health and Safety Officers when staff view them as ‘trouble makers’ or ‘drama queens’. In some cases workers think important workplace safety systems are a joke, eg. safety induction training, evacuation procedures, and hazard containment strategies.
The problem lies with workers believing their job description only covers what they physically or mentally need to do to carry out a work activity. They view Health and Safety as an ‘extra’ job – a burden full of paperwork and technical jargon that only takes time away from getting their ‘real job’ done. Most workers lack the mind-set that ‘safety’ is part of their ‘real job’.

Day to day procedures need to have safety strategies built into them, even if it means re-writing the Procedures Manual or Job Steps.

Here are some simple strategies to get staff involved in safety issues and hopefully ‘keen’ in the process:

Safety Meetings
Ok, let’s admit it – how many staff meetings have you groaned about having to attend? I know I’ve been guilty of this myself. I’ve even lamented, “Oh great! Now we have to listen to someone drone on about something as petty as not replacing the toilet paper in the bathroom…” And I was right! (Obviously this took place at my previous employment!!!).

The trick to making Safety meetings enjoyable and therefore not as ‘begrudged’ are:

  • Don’t run the meetings during people’s ‘free time’, eg. before work hours, or worse – after work hours, during lunch times, etc.
  • Keep the meetings short. People’s attention spans are varied, especially when their mind is on some pressing matter at work that needs clearing up. Sure, have more meetings – just make them shorter. You don’t want people sitting there wishing the person speaking would just shut up so they can all get out of there and back to work.
  • Get the workers involved by asking them to prepare a short talk or demonstration about safety in relation to their particular work task. There’s no stress about them needing to conduct copious amounts of research – because they know their job. Give them a time frame for the talk and allow them to be as imaginative and ‘out there’ as they want to be. It’s during these times you’ll hear ‘pearls’. The amount of workers who have brilliant ideas on improving safety, but haven’t spoken up, or who have acquired ‘unconscious competence’ over the years and thought that particular safety tip they were using was “known by everyone else already” will suprise you.
  • Make it fun. Even serious subjects can be delivered in a fun and entertaining fashion. ‘Boring’ is definitely an ingredient for turning off your listeners. A particular school in Brisbane (Queensland, Australia) has a safety meeting twice a month, where they hand out the “Smarty-pants Safety Award” – which happens to be a blackboard duster to which someone has glued a pair of doll’s frilly undies. The person who received the award had come up with a credible safety issue within the two weeks prior to the meeting. Everyone listens to why the person received the award, comments on it, enjoys the process and applauds it, and gobbles down the yummy snacks that the school supplied for the meeting. It’s informal, yes – but every single attendee can tell you what the safety strategy was and how it was applied.

Safety Signs
Put up relevant Safety Signs and get staff involved:

  • Make different Staff Members in charge of the different Safety Signs. Ask them to move the signs about, so they don’t “become part of the furniture” and are ignored. Obviously common sense prevails with some signs, eg. Fire Safety Equipment Signs need to stay with the equipment, as does First Aid, and it wouldn’t be wise to move the equipment as emergency facilities should be where specified.

Safety Audits
Hold regular Safety Audits, and once again get staff involved:

  • Put together a roster for staff to walk around the workplace armed with a hazard checklist. Encourage them to talk to other workers for feedback on work conditions, etc.

Weekly newsletters/emails with updated rules or procedures on safety are a great reminder to staff about diligence in the workplace. Here’s how to make them effective:

  • Make the articles entertaining and and easy to absorb – forget the ‘jargon’ that is so common in the OHS Industry.
  • Add news about safety that is relevant to the industry.
  • Ask staff for feedback or to share safety tips, and reward them for it, eg. publishing in next newsletter and a dinner voucher, etc.
  • A large, international company sends weekly emails to staff (about 3500 of them) on safety covering everything from sitting correctly at a desk through to sun protection. The email is html and has funny pictures as well as a joke of the week. It has been well received by the majority of staff.

I hope these strategies for getting staff interested in Safety in the Wokrplace give you some ideas. And please, if you have any that you’d like to share, leave a comment.

About the Author

Safety Concepts is an online resource providing up to date insights and covering issues in the field of Workplace Safety.

Comments (1)

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  1. Rob Ellis says:

    This is such a great article! We have written about the issue on our blog too – trying to figure out ways to engage employees in saving their own lives and limbs! You’d think it would be something of a no-brainer, given that their own health and wellbeing is at stake! But boredom and a sense of immortality and “it happens to other people” are all emotional and psychological factors that aren’t easily undone in humans.
    I lost my own son to a workplace accident, on his second day on the job, and I still blame myself for being too casual about his safety training and orientation.
    Thank you for writing about it.
    – Rob Ellis

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