It doesn’t matter what business environment you find yourself in, whether it be office, construction, engineering, or machine work; something that should always be on a manager’s mind is the safety of their employees. Though we can agree that not all worksites are created equally, as a construction worker will likely be exposed to more dangers in his day to day work than someone who does graphic design, we can also acknowledge that every workplace has its potential dangers. For example, see that fan next to the cubicle? Someone coming around the corner could trip over the cord and hurt themselves. Or the box that’s sticking out of the storage area in the back of the restaurant, the one full of 20 pound bags of noodles used to make that delicious chicken soup, someone might not see that. Or what about that two foot catwalk 30 ft above the ground; it can be quite hard to walk on if not careful. Some of these issues are obvious, and some are not. It takes an ever watchful manager to catch all the potential dangers. But let us be realistic here for a moment; even the most watchful and diligent manager will overlook the obvious and not so obvious; it’s part of being human. That is why safety is so much more than just one person’s job. There is an old adage that says it takes an entire village to raise a child, whether that be true or not, you’ll have to ask the village, but it definitely takes the entire workforce to practice effective safety measures.
Communication is key. It’s important to always have an unobstructed line of dialogue flowing between employees and managers. And who better to suggest safety tips than the very same people that are at risk? Not only do they know the ins and outs of what their job entails, but they know what actions can result in dangerous situations. Depending on the type of job or the team involved, employees could meet one day a week for a short brain storming session in which concerns could be discussed. An open forum gives employees the ability to state their concerns and ideas and others to comment on them. The most suitable method of communication should always be determined by the manager, with consideration towards how the group works best. But regardless of the vessel of communication that is ultimately chosen, giving the employees a suitable outlet ensures that all safety hazards are clearly outlined and understood. Employees feel like they are taking part in their safety and that makes anyone feel good. People love knowing that they have an active role in shaping the world around them, especially when it directly concerns their well being.
This brings us to the idea of change. Most companies have safety rule books, sometimes designated by the industry and others created by the company specifically. A good safety plan is much more than words from a book though. A safety plan must be intuitive and malleable. When a concern is brought forward or a potential danger observed, there must be quick and decisive action. Does the company have a plan instituted for the amendment of safety rules? For example, if a new rule is added or something is changed, what is the course of action in relating this information to the employees? Maybe for an office an email would be sent out or a memo would be handed out. Does the management then go on to present this change in a safety meeting? Does this new rule or change interfere with other safety rules? These are all important questions that must be addressed before a rule is changed. That’s why it’s good to understand that some rules will eventually need to be changed and to have a plan in place to make the process as smooth as possible.
Imagine a safety plan that has addressed every problem, found all the best solutions, and explains them all simply and concisely. Sounds like the ideal, right? But the best safety plan and rule book in the world would mean absolutely nothing if it is not followed. This is obvious, we can all agree on that, but where we will always find ourselves contending is how a safety plan should be enforced. First of all, the image of enforcing the safety plan brings negative images and thoughts to the forefront of the mind, and that is exactly the point here. It may sound corny and unrealistic, but positive reinforcement is always the best way to go. How would an employee feel if he or she were called into the manager’s office? Most likely they would primarily feel fear and apprehension; after all, you only get called into the office if you’ve done something wrong, right? That’s what makes positive reinforcement so powerful, because not only does it fly in the face of expectations, but it leaves the employee feeling good. As long as the positive reinforcement is not contrived, they will feel like they’ve accomplished something. Reward employees for doing their job safely, they will continue to do so, and not out of fear of negative repercussion, but because they want to do it.
All of the aforementioned ideas help to bring the obvious result that we all strive for; a safe environment. This is the ultimate goal, yes, but holistically minded safety plans can also have some satisfying side effects. When people feel engaged, safe, and accomplished, they have a good morale. They want to work hard, and feel like they are getting something satisfying other than monetary compensation in return. Think of business as a war, one in which there are no casualties (as long as it’s safe!) and only money is at stake, a different kind of war yes, but a war none-the-less. Sometimes the very thing that can determine a victory is not the size of the army, or the advanced technology, but the morale. With a good morale your employees will lead you to victory every time.
Try some of these tips in your work environment, fine-tune them and see how they work for you. Remember, it takes an entire workforce to practice good safety.