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Engaged staff supports your build of a safety culture

"Workers are a source of rich data that can be used for applying controls, correcting unsafe practices, and coaching and training," says WSPS consultant Norm Kramer. The best way to mine the data is to create an environment in which people feel safe speaking up, even when reporting a near miss or worse. Otherwise, you'll never be able to access their experiences and ideas.

Here are two scenarios involving a workplace incident. The first demonstrates best practices; the second, what not to do.

Scenario 1 - What to do!

  • A lift truck operator sticks her head in your office to advise that she's backed into a racking unit. She's pretty sure the damage is minor, but can you look at it right now?
  • You ask if she's okay and thank her for telling you. As you head to the damaged racking, you mentally re-order your day's priorities. The damage does look minor, but you direct another operator to unload the rack and rope off the area just in case.
  • You return to your office with the operator. You place a quick call to get the repairs going, and then turn to the issue at hand: how to prevent the incident from recurring.
  • You ask the operator to tell you what happened. You listen and ask open-ended questions to gather more information. And how is she doing now? Okay, she says.
  • After she leaves to finish her shift, you draw up a list of next steps, which includes inviting the joint health and safety committee (JHSC) to help you identify root causes and make recommendations. Chances are, there's more than one cause.
  • During your weekly safety talk, you commend the lift truck operator for bringing the damage to your attention, provide a status report on the investigation, and invite input. You outline the options for providing input, including just coming by your office. Door's always open.
  • Once the JHSC has submitted its recommendations, you present an action plan to the management team. At your next safety talk, you review the highlights and thank people for their input.

Scenario 2 - What not to do!

  • A lift truck operator sticks his head in your office to advise that someone's backed into a racking unit. He's not sure who.
  • By the time you get to the damaged rack, a few people have collected. "Who did this," you shout, partly for effect. You want everyone to know that this is serious.
  • After a pause, someone steps up. You berate her in front of everyone. Why didn't she report it? What if the racking had collapsed and damaged the load?
  • You order everyone back to work. They'll all have to make up for lost time. As they leave, you tell them to keep their eyes on the racking and get out of the way if it shifts.
  • You head back to your office to take care of this mess, hopefully before your boss hears about it.

As a result of Scenario 2's punitive approach, employees will be even less likely to report hazards. This means greater risk, and greater likelihood of injury and loss.

How to encourage worker reporting and input - What to do!

  1. Actively demonstrate the company's commitment to health and safety, such as creating a simple employee hazard reporting form and recognition program.
  2. Provide refresher training to workers and supervisors on their roles and responsibilities, which include reporting hazards. Include all the ways of reporting them.
  3. Be visible. Show your own commitment to safety by touring the workplace daily. Ask people about any hazards they've noticed. Follow up promptly.
  4. Encourage JHSC members conducting inspections to involve workers in reporting hazards.
  5. Ensure health and safety is a collaborative approach, such as involving workers in decision-making. The best solutions often come from the people doing the work.
  6. Commend workers publicly for their contributions.

How WSPS can help

Each of these WSPS resources can help you engage your people in creating a safer workplace.