When 75% of safety professionals identify “employee indifference” as the top barrier to excellence safety training, it’s a cry for help across the profession.
Simple: If you want employees to be more engaged with safety training, you actually have to give them an engaging training experience.
Hard: Lack of safety training engagement or interaction is symptomatic of a larger problem with your organizational culture.
There is no ‘easy button’ for that, only hard work.
To begin fixing the problem at its core, there is a lot of work that has nothing to do with safety training itself, and everything to do with credibility, communication, and trust.
Here is a 7-step plan to help you turn the tide and improve your safety training program…
#1: Measure Your Safety Climate
Failure to engage with safety training is a serious problem that you need to explore on a deeper level—there is no panacea or magic wand to wave.
Often times, there are several complex issues contributing to the problem requiring assistance from multiple stakeholders.
This is where most safety professionals stop loving the problem and working toward solution; this stuff isn’t easy, but a career defining commitment.
Vivid’s Safety Engagement Survey is all about exploring characteristics of organizational trust shared by high-performing safety programs.
Designed by experienced, Certified Safety Professionals, this survey explores the correlation between leadership and motivation, by collecting perceptions of individual work expectations, communication, and quality of relationships.
- Question Sets for Management & Employees
- Averages 10 Minutes to Completion
- 20 Questions
- 100% Online
- Custom Results
- Mobile Ready
If you can’t measure it, you can’t fix it.
#2: Crystal Clear Goals & Expectations
The exercise of goal-setting never won anybody a trophy, alone.
Here’s why it is so important: it’s an opportunity to pull your organization together around safety.
When you assume responsibility for safety performance, you share ownership of goals with your workforce—you need them to perform, to buy-in.
By working across teams to identify challenges, establish new expectations and goals, and incorporating your people into the safety program in new ways, you are planting seeds and raising awareness at the same time.
This gets you out of the silo or silhouette of your role, and gives other employee groups license to assume more responsibility for occupational health and safety.
Like any opportunity, it is what you make of it.
And that’s why experienced safety leaders love goals—they recognize the value and make the most of these opportunities.
#3: Open the Suggestion Box
If you ask your employees about the health and safety priorities on the job, they will tell you…something.
Think back about the most recent safety suggestion that was brought forward from the workforce—even a seemingly insignificant thing—and make it happen, make good.
Two reasons: (1) this demonstrates commitment and (2) gives you credibility and (3) is a small step on the road to employee safety engagement and buy-in.
Show them you care, you’re listening, and that’s you take their suggestions seriously.
Get out there and fix something requested by the workforce.
#4: Let Employees Take the Wheel
Look for select opportunities to delegate responsibility for safety leadership to employees; doing so may show a tremendous value over time.
- Demonstrate safety expertise by leading group training sessions
- Help others return to work after injury
- Review and revise safety policies
- Lead incident investigation team
- Interact with occupational safety vendors directly
- Audit hazards
- Demonstrate proper use & maintenance of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Observe other employees & groups across the company and evaluate safety performance
- Participate in goal setting exercises
- Lead safety committee subgroups for exploratory research
Start small, and build employee participation into your safety and training program where you can.
Allowing safety leaders to emerge organically by creating opportunities also boosts the credibility of environmental health and safety managers, increasing trust.
#5: Open Door, Anti-Retaliatory
If mutual trust is the foundation of a healthy safety climate (and it is), you need to have a clear policy and protocol in place for reporting occupational safety and health concerns.
You also need to ensure that awareness of each is high across the organization.
The opportunity to voice concerns related to environmental health and safety directly to management is important, though employees must know that they can do so at any time without fear of reprisal.
The last thing an employee wants is to bring forward a safety concern shared by colleagues and risk marginalization.
Employees need to be reminded and encouraged to report near misses, concerns of serious injury and fatality, and safety–related needs that contribute to the welfare of other workers.
Bottom-line: Employees must be able express concerns without fear of losing their job to anyone in the organization.
Make that know, often, and be sure to educate your workforce on your internal reporting process.
Support those employees with the courage to engage on that level; follow-up quickly and show them that you take their concerns seriously and will make every appropriate effort or corrective action, escalating the issue to management when necessary.
#6: Conditions for Incident Prevention
Safety is everybody’s job, but do your employees know and believe that?
If workers routinely exhibit unsafe behaviors or demonstrate disregard for safety protocols, are there consequences?
Safety doesn’t start on day 1 of the job—it’s actually something you hire for.
There is nothing wrong with asking potential hires to explain their knowledge of, attitude about, or experiences with important occupational safety and health considerations, along with professional safety accreditations earned from previous experience.
Also, there are administrative tools available to safety professionals related to performance…
- Promote safe performers
- Working safely as a condition of employment
- Safety training completion and participation
- Safety performance evaluations for managers
- Elements of safety participation included in job descriptions
- Guidelines for safety committee participation
- Healthy expectations for time committed to occupational safety and health participation
- Policies addressing corrective action for employees who break with safety standards
Set the tone for safety by making sure it is a responsibility employees share and are held accountable for.
#7: Reward with Responsibility
It is important to recognize safety leadership and excellence in safety performance.
That’s not the same as ‘incentivizing safety or training’, a concept that causes heartburn here and there.
If safety goals are attained, why not celebrate that as an organization?
Show your employees that your company cares about safety and is committed to core safety principles, by honoring attainment of shared goals.
Also, employees that emerge as safety leaders—designated or otherwise—benefit from additional responsibilities in the opportunity to distinguish themselves amongst employees and learn new skills and abilities.
Feed the workers that are hungry for more safety participation, and encourage them to mentor others; give them tools, support, and encouragement.
These are the same employees that help you get buy-in when change management issues arise—you need them on your team.
When you make adjusts to your safety training program, it is these individuals who carry the torch, easing the transition away from the status quo.