How Successful Leadership Impacts Involvement And Participation In Safety

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How Successful Leadership Impacts Involvement And Participation In Safety

Leaders Encourage Worker Participation

Effective leaders know that by encouraging workers to participate in the program, management signals that it values their input into safety and health decisions. Employee participation builds trust and also increases a feeling of ownership on the part of employees, and that benefits the company long-term. To effectively encourage participation, leaders should:

  • Give workers the necessary time and resources to participate in the program.
  • Recognize and provide positive reinforcement to those who participate in the program.
  • Maintain an open-door policy that invites workers to talk to managers about safety and health and to make suggestions.

Leaders Encourage Reporting Safety and Health Concerns

Workers are often best positioned to identify safety and health concerns and program shortcomings, such as workplace hazards, unsafe behaviors, near misses, and actual incidents. By encouraging reporting and following up promptly on all reports, employers can address issues before someone gets hurt or becomes ill. To effectively demonstrate leadership in reporting, leaders should:

  • Establish a process for workers to report hazardous conditions, unsafe behaviors, incidents and accidents, and other safety and health concerns.
  • If sufficient trust between labor and management does not exist, include an option for anonymous reporting to reduce fear of reprisal. If supervisors and managers thank employees and never reprimand or punish them for reporting, sufficient trust will build, eliminating the need for anonymous reporting.
  • Report back to workers promptly and frequently about action taken.
  • Emphasize that management will use reported information only to improve workplace safety and health, and that no worker will experience retaliation for reporting.
  • Empower all workers to initiate or request a temporary suspension or shutdown of any work activity or operation they believe to be unsafe.
  • Involve workers in finding solutions to reported issues.

Leaders Give Workers Access to Safety and Health Information

Sharing relevant safety and health information with workers fosters trust and helps organizations make more informed safety and health decisions. Leaders should give workers access to:

  • Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), injury and illness data, and results of environmental exposure monitoring.
  • Other useful information for workers to review can include, Job Hazard Analyses (JHAs), inspection reports, and incident/accident investigation reports.

Leaders Involve Workers In All Aspects of Safety

Including worker input at every step of safety program design development, and deployment improves the employer’s ability to identify the presence and causes of workplace hazards, creates a sense of program ownership among workers, enhances their understanding of how the program works, and helps sustain the program over time. Leaders should provide opportunities for workers to participate in all aspects of the program, including:

  • Reporting hazards and developing solutions that improve safety and health;
  • Analyzing hazards in each step of routine and nonroutine jobs, tasks, and processes;
  • Conducting site safety inspections;
  • Developing and revising safety procedures and practices;
  • Participating in incident and accident investigations; and
  • Training current coworkers and new hires.

Leaders Remove Barriers to Participation

Effective leaders understand that to participate meaningfully in a program, workers must think and feel that their input is welcome, their voices will be heard, and they can access reporting mechanisms. Participation will be suppressed if language, education, or skill levels in the workplace are not considered, or if workers fear retaliation or discrimination for speaking up.

For example, employees will not participate if investigations focus on blaming individuals rather than the underlying root causes that led to the incident, or if reporting an incident or concern could jeopardize the award of incentive-based prizes, rewards, or bonuses. To effectively demonstrate leadership in removing barriers to participation, leaders should:

  • Ensure workers from all levels of the organization can participate regardless of their skill level, education, or language.
  • Provide frequent and regular feedback to show employees that their safety and health concerns are being heard and addressed.
  • Authorize sufficient time and resources to facilitate worker participation; for example, hold safety and health meetings during regular working hours.
  • Ensure that the program protects workers from being retaliated against for reporting injuries, illnesses, and hazards; participating in the program; or exercising their safety and health rights.
  • Ensure other policies and programs do not discourage worker participation.
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