7 Steps To Engage Employees in Health & Safety
24 January 2023 - Evotix
There seems to be a transition happening as it pertains to health and safety. Organizations have realized that simply responding to workplace accidents just doesn’t cut it. It’s all about being proactive to ensure health and safety runs through the very fabric of your organizational structure – from production lines to the upper echelons of your head office.
One proactive way to ensure a safe work environment is by using learning to pique the curiosity of your employees and build engagement around safe work practices. Not only is an engaged workforce safer, they’re also more productive, which means big wins for the business. But what is employee engagement and what are the best ways to secure it? In the article below, we’ll lead you through the steps involved in establishing engagement and ingraining it within your company culture.
What is employee engagement?
According to Forbes, employee engagement is the emotional commitment an employee has to an organization and its goals. When it comes to health and safety, this commitment takes the shape of a determination on the part of employees to fully follow the safety procedures implemented by their company. This keeps them and their colleagues out of harm’s way.
Employee engagement can take many different forms. In the health and safety context, it could mean employees actively reporting any hazards or near-misses that they spot. Or a construction worker putting on their hard hat when they’re in a space where falling debris is a possibility. For each action, the goal is to get to a stage where employees take these steps because they genuinely care about preserving a safe work environment, not just because a supervisor is watching them.
Why is engaging employees in health & safety important?
Engaging employees in health and safety practices is the most effective way to create a more productive working environment. If employees know exactly what they need to do to safely execute their tasks, they’re likely to complete these tasks with more confidence, speed and efficiency. Besides respecting the safety policies your organization has put in place, employees that are highly engaged in health and safety will also always be eager to learn about the best ways to preserve a safe workplace for everyone by actively participating in any safety training provided.
Having employees view health and safety in this light means it’s more likely they’ll report potential hazards, near-misses or general observations about how to improve working conditions. By demanding a place at the table with senior leaders when it comes to discussing health and safety, employees will help reduce the total number of people hurt or property damaged – meaning operational efficiency is not affected and production continues.
How can you measure employee engagement in health & safety?
There are a variety of methods that can be used to quantify employee engagement. One of the most effective measures is simply inviting conversation around health and safety. Surveys can be used to ask questions about health and safety in your workplace. These could include questions from the employee and employer’s point of view. For example, consider asking employee-based questions like “have you reported a hazard or incident in the last 6 months,” or employer-based questions like “do you believe your employer prioritizes safety” or ”Do you think the current safety measures in place are working?” As long as they feel comfortable being honest, this method should help identify engagement levels when it comes to health and safety engagement.
You could also count the increase in optional courses offered around health and safety to understand how much interest there is outside what’s required of them. Another is to consider the results of mandatory training. For example, after executing a workshop on incident reporting, check out the data to see if more incidents have been reported. A correlation between training and execution can easily be drawn.
How to engage employees in health & safety
Strong leadership is the key for strong health and safety engagement. Effective leaders will not only talk about the importance of health and safety with passion, but will also turn this passion into tangible actions. Prioritizing health and safety in this way will help inspire the workforce to take it seriously, too.
These are the 7 steps that leaders can take to ensure a high increase in employee engagement around health and safety:
1. Encourage communication
Build an environment where employees have an outlet to speak their minds and you’ll see engagement increase. Unreported hazards or near misses will eventually turn into incidents. To prevent this, ensure that employees feel like they have a vote that counts when it comes to health and safety concerns.
2. Perform regular health and safety audits
Regular health and safety audits help ensure accountability and demonstrate proactiveness. Sometimes employees will be asked questions during the audits. Involving them in the process will only deepen their level of engagement, as they’ll be expected to stay in the loop regarding the most high-priority health and safety issues at that given time.
3. Ensure an effective incident reporting system
The effort put into encouraging more communication between employees will be lost without an effective incident management system. Having a clear mechanism, whereby employees can report incidents and track the investigations or actions that occur as a result, will reassure employees that their concerns are being taken seriously, and that your organization intends to act on them.
Providing your staff with high-caliber training that is relevant to their everyday tasks can be a wonderful way to boost employee engagement. In-the-flow training is a great way to do this. By demonstrating to staff members how to safely use a specific piece of machinery properly and then encouraging them to practice doing so, you create an environment where they can naturally grow competent in the skill until they can carry it out without having to think twice about it.
Training can take many other forms, from interactive courses on hazard spotting to quizzes on employee and employer responsibilities in the case of emergencies. The more interactive the training, the more likely it is your employees will absorb the information – so try and be creative when it comes to grabbing their attention.
5. Set KPIs
Having clearly defined KPIs, including a low total recordable injury frequency rate or a high consumption of employee training, can help motivate employees to commit to the health and safety policies in place. Show them how their individual actions impact the wider safety environment to help make them feel like they’re all equally working towards a greater goal of securing the success of your organization.
6. Reward positive behavior
Not only is receiving praise kind of great, but its benefits can also be traced back to Edward Thorndike’s Law of Effect in 1898 – which proposes that behavior followed up by a pleasant consequence will increase the likelihood of it being repeated. By taking the time to reward your employees for adhering to health and safety standards, you’re more likely to cultivate a work environment where these actions turn into long-term habits.
7. Regularly review safety procedures
If Covid taught us anything, it’s that we need to be aware of new dangers. That’s why it's essential for senior leaders to regularly review the safety procedures in place to check what’s working and what needs to be updated. This enables your organization to move with the times and ensure your health and safety policies remain robust as you continue to grow as a team.
It's clear that maintaining an engaged workforce is integral to ensuring the health and safety of your workplace. The good news is there’s a plethora of ways to engage your staff in health and safety procedures. From training, to setting clear KPIs and simply picking their brains about your current health and safety policies, you can ensure you maintain a happier, more productive workforce and secure a bright future ahead for your company.
Want to learn more about activating effective employee engagement? Tune into Evotix’s Two Bald Guys Talking Safety podcast, where we take a deep dive into this issue on episode 205, “How to Make Safety Engagement Mean Something To Your Frontline Workers”.
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