Hey, I'm Dale. I'm the founder of the International Association for Chemical Safety and I often get asked how I go about getting my staff more inclined to speak up when they have an accident or notice a hazard or risk that they may have inadvertently created.
As an expert in chemical safety legislation and compliance I hold the great honour of being in a role where I have the power to positively influence the attitudes and behaviours of people across many different industries.
Encouraging a 'healthy and positive safety culture' will do wonders for your business and the safety of your people, so I want to go over some tips for removing the fear of reporting accidents and injuries and improving general workplace safety culture.
Conversation is key
Many people aren't confident when speaking to someone in power or someone they're not familiar with. When trying to get workers to come forward with any safety problems they find it's important for them to know that you're there and accessible.
Whether you're the boss or the safety expert that they have never seen before, introduce yourself, be open and friendly. Explain to them what you are doing and how it will improve their own safety on the job.
Take an interest in their job and the specific task they are undertaking. If the job is new to you, you will learn something and I find that if the worker feels you really are interested then they will open up to you about the process.
If you're able to make a person feel comfortable when speaking with you then that person is more likely to speak up when spotting hazards or someone or something endangering lives.
Ask how dangerous workers feel their job is
Once a worker is comfortable speaking to you about their job then ask them what they feel are the dangers and how they could get hurt doing their job.
Most people, once assured, are happy to talk about how unsafe their job is and what they think can be done to improve their own safety, as well as improving the workstation and the work process.
One specific workstation could have a hazard not present in another, similar station and that one worker may be the only person who is aware of it.
As the worker opens up about their work processes continue to be open and friendly, but try to avoid giving out the answers in your questions. Your main priority is to have the worker spot the hazards themselves and tease out responses that will improve overall workplace safety.
Having them work it out for themselves will also go a long way to improving their own thinking when it comes to accepting that there really are hazards and that they need to actively take part it making their specific job and the workplace safer.
Ask if they could teach an inexperienced worker to do their job safely
This does not mean that you should automatically put them to training new workers on the job. It's obviously important that their methods match the wider safety plan.
Anyone and everyone will, generally, try to keep themselves safe when working, unfortunately, being careful just isn't enough. A worker must be following correct procedures, especially if asked to teach someone else.
If you find a worker that is enthusiastic about safety on their workstation and you're confidant they know what they're doing, then this would be a great person to pass on not only the safe work processes but also their attitude and enthusiasm for safety to the inexperienced worker.
Workers are more likely to feel comfortable with fellow workers, especially when it's a the new guys first week on the job and - most of the time - you'll find that somebody taught by an enthusiast often becomes an enthusiast themselves.
Involve them in the implementation of safer work processes and control measures
Once you have agreed that something needs to change in order to improve safety then it's the responsibility of both you and the worker to ensure that it actually happens.
There are regulations in place to dictate the absolute minimum control measures that must be present, but if you have a worker who is enthusiastic about making their job safer then let them figure out a way to do so.
A worker who has created a safer job will be proud of their achievement and will ensure that anyone who comes to do the same job will know about it and be safer for it.
You, as the boss or safety expert, however, must take the highest responsibility
Having workers who are enthusiastic about safety is valuable, but the ultimate responsibility rests with management. If you're the boss or the resident safety expert you should also be actively aiding your workers.
If the idea was their own, grant them the resources they need to properly and safely implement them, or bring up their concerns at the next safety board meeting to secure the proper resources.
If the idea is yours, ensure your workers fully understand and are able to approach you if they feel your solution isn't enough or has faults.
Be open, friendly and say thank you!
If your workers feel you are accessible they're more likely to come to you.
If you thank them, and mean it, they will feel happy about what they have done and they will try to do more of it.
This is called positive reinforcement and it's a scientifically proven method of ensuring positive behaviour, in this case keeping themselves and everyone else, stay safe.
If you would like to involve your workers more in the safety of your workplace you can sign up your whole team to the new COSHH Risk Assessor Certification™. My team will teach yours how to spot hazards, identify risks and implement the proper control measures. Absolutely free of charge!