It is funny, as kids almost from the time we could talk and walk, we were told to follow the rules, like walk don’t run on slippery floors or wear your hat and mitts or you will freeze your fingers and head. And as we progressed it was ride to the right with our bikes, use your arm signals and NO JUMPING boards or objects with your bike. Then it was our first vehicle, like no speeding no joy riding or no back seat push up, the list was endless. Oh then we grew up and got a job meet the boss and got handed a safety manual! Sadly, carelessness in the workplace can tend to go hand in hand with pressures to produce and, in some cases, it is rewarded. Too often, it is easier for a manager to turn away and cross his or her fingers when observing a safety rule being violated than to slow down the process with enforcement and follow-through.
Time, effort, comfort and peer pressure are the foremost reasons employees commit unsafe acts when they know better but don’t do better. Many employees don’t like being required to attend safety training sessions or, in some cases, obey safety rules. Many companies establish safety as a “No. 1 priority,” but send mixed messages when something more important bumps safety to the back burner.
Employees may be hesitant to give into safety when they feel that it does not apply to them. It is important that employees understand that even if they are not working on machines or climbing to dangerous heights, that they are still at risk for injury in their every day job duties. Include information on fire prevention, ergonomic injuries, slips/trips/falls, and workplace violence to show employees that there are risks involved with every job!
As an employer in today’s ever-changing work environment, it is crucial to consistently evaluate your workplace. It’s pretty frustrating when you are a manager, supervisor, or rule-abiding employee and some employees don’t follow safety rules. The quick and easy—and most common—path of reaction is to place blame, decide they simply must not care about the rules, and label them as a pain in the you know what.
However, is this the best approach to dealing with employees who aren’t following safety rules?
Probably not, no matter how justified you feel. Low rates of compliance usually indicate the safety management system is failing in some way.
Instead of jumping to conclusions about non-compliant employees and placing blame, try asking yourself the following four questions. This will help you get to the crux of the matter and more effectively identify the root causes associated with employees not following safety rules.
Do you have written safety procedures and rules in place for your company? Yes. Have you effectively trained your employees?
There are three main components of an effective safety program:
1. Total, unwavering safety commitment from management.
2. Active implementation of a formal site-specific safety program led by mid-management.
3. Employee involvement through example and demonstration, not directives.
It’s not enough to make safety a “No. 1” priority. Safety must become an inherent company value because priorities nearly always change at some point. All individuals want to succeed, best echoed by the old saying, “What interests my boss, fascinates me.”
The term “accountability” typically tags along with a negative connotation of punitive or disciplinary action. In a compliance context, this word translates to everyone owning responsibility for individual safety.
Employers face a daily challenge of emphasizing how safety is a top value to employees. It must be implemented in the workplace as well as the home environment to ensure a 24/7 approach. Safety values have the power to protect the well-being of you, your coworkers, and your family if followed diligently. If an unsafe action were to undermine any one of these values it could result in devastation. Is it worth it to shave off a few extra minutes by not putting on protective equipment or skip steps of a safety procedure if the consequences could harm yourself or others? The answer is always NO. No means of production, quality control, or monetary value take away from the protection that safety provides. A way to ensure the value of safety is protected, you must hold employees accountable for their actions, especially if they present unsafe behavior.
Companies need to have highly detailed safety procedures in place, ensure and account for employee training and awareness, and ultimately use a zero-tolerance policy for serious violations of the policy. Employers must create a system of accountability that includes:
· Thorough training
· Strong and effective safety and health policies
· Regular and frequent inspections and documentation
· Accountability to follow through with safety rules
To look at it another way, many companies terminate employees because of excessive tardiness or theft, while merely warning them for a serious breach of safety rules that could have caused death or serious physical harm.
Emphasizing what’s really important
Safety is about creating an environment where employees want to be safe because it’s the right thing to do.
How to convince employees with resistant attitudes to buy into safety In the workplace, the word ‘safety’ evokes two distinct sets of opinions from people. Some see safety as the most important aspect of their business, a healthy investment, and something that their company strives to promote throughout the workplace. Others see safety as a waste of time, money and effort. For companies that are struggling with employees who refuse to focus on safety, here are some ideas which you can use to make your employees more safety conscious! Stress That Safety Affects Everyone
A disciplinary system helps to ensure workplace safety and health by educating employees on what values and responsibilities are expected of them. It provides workers with opportunities to correct their behavior before an accident happens. The purpose should be to control the work environment so that workers are protected and accidents are prevented. Keep in mind that once a system has been put in place it must be followed suit. Jumping to conclusions, placing blame, and/or abusing the system should be avoided.
The disciplinary policy should be comprised of a corrective action process aimed to document and correct undesirable employee behavior, including violations of safety rules. All employees must take responsibility for following safety rules at the workplace.
MAJOR ELEMENTS OF THE POLICY SHOULD INCLUDE:
· Physical inspections by company officials which may indicate violations showing overall lack of commitment to company safety goals shall be under the same level of disciplinary actions.
· Constructive criticism/instruction by supervisors to educate and inform employees of appropriate safety performance and behavior.
· Correcting employee’s negative behavior to the extent required.
· Informing employees that continued violation of company safety policies may result in termination.
· Written documentation of disciplinary warnings and corrective action taken.
It is important to remember that an employee may be a very productive worker, family member, or even friend, but if they don’t follow company rules and safe work practices, they can adversely affect your company. Decreased employee morale, increased workers’ compensation costs, or even OH&S/OSHA citations are factors that must always be taken into consideration. Implementing a solid disciplinary policy system, which is thoroughly understood by employees, is your next line of defense. With proper training and documentation of disciplinary actions, the system is simplified and allows for a clear set of steps and a paper trail to follow. Having the proper documentation of what exactly happened leading up to an employment termination, injury, or an OH&S/OSHA violation shows that the employer has taken preventative measures to avoid such action. At the same time, employers cannot always be there to hold the employees hand.
Conducting and documenting employee training on applicable safety topics, work procedures, and company policies should be the first step upon hiring a new employee. New employee training is your first chance to emphasize to the new hire that employee safety is a priority at your company and that safe work practices are taken seriously. This is crucial step to ensure that employees know how much the company values each employee and their safety on and off the job.
· Established a work rule adequate to prevent the violation. This can be established through written safety programs.
· Effectively communicated the rule to employees. This shall be through proper training documentation.
· Established methods for discovering violations of work rules, and yet did not know about an isolated violation of the work rules; Documented inspections of your jobsite and/or facility are the key for this one. Make sure you note any hazardous conditions and all corrective actions taken when performing your walk through.
· Established effective enforcement of the rule when violations are discovered through documented disciplinary actions. Ensure that you are documenting all disciplinary actions taken, even verbal violations.
· 1. Has the employer provided quality resources, space, work materials, PPE, etc.?
· Even if an employer has written safety policies and procedures, an employer may set up employees to fail when it comes to applying those rules if adequate resources are not provided. You can talk up the importance of safety all you want, but actions speak louder than words! If PPE does not fit employees properly or an employer doesn’t provide adequate workspace, it can give employees the impression the employer doesn’t really value safety and makes employee compliance improbable, if not impossible.
· 2. Does the employer properly supervise employee behavior and compliance?
· Okay, so you obviously don’t get paid to be a glorified babysitter, but proper and adequate supervision of employee behavior is important. Especially when it comes to safety. If unsafe behaviors go unnoticed, employees may be tempted to become lax when it comes to safety rules. They may do this for a variety of reasons, especially if not following safety rules appears to get a job done faster or easier.
· 3. Does the employer enforce safety rules, policies, and procedures?
· This is closely tied with the previous question. If an employer notices employees breaking safety rules, but provides inadequate discipline or does nothing about it, then employees may not take safety rules seriously. The “safe way or the highway” may sound harsh, but, if an employer has truly done everything that can be done to ensure non-compliance is not a safety management failing, then employees should know that not following safety rules is not tolerated.
· 4. Has the employer properly trained employees on safety rules and processes?
· You can’t blame and discipline an employee for not following safety rules if they haven’t received proper training. Just giving them a list of rules or procedures is not always sufficient! You may need to put them through online and/or on-the-job training to ensure employees understand how to follow a safety rule and why it is important. The WHY of the safety rule is an integral, but often forgotten, part of safety training. You should also have employees demonstrate their knowledge of a safety rule. This can be done through written or oral tests and by supervised participation.
· If you answer “no” to any of the questions above, you may want to steer your wrath away from non-compliant employees and look more closely at your organization’s safety management system. Improve and correct where needed.
· However, if you answer yes to all of the questions above, some of your employees may deserve a good talking to. If warnings and other forms of discipline have not worked, it may be time for you to part ways with the employee. Not only are they are a walking safety hazard who may injure other employees, but they are also a financial liability! If you value safety, you want employees who value safety, too.
DOCUMENTATION IS THE KEY TO ALL OF THESE ELEMENTS. IN OH&S/OSHA’S MIND, IF IT’S NOT DOCUMENTED, IT DIDN’T HAPPEN!
To establish a successful safety initiative here are my recommendations for senior leadership:
· Safety begins first with top management; and deliver the message with visual concepts, not just words.
· Create a program that is site-specific and makes sense to management and workers.
· Identify where safety and health issues exist and implement a program that corrects these issues and all similar issues.
· Fully understand the responsibility and requirement to follow safety and health rules.
And here are some recommendations to foster a culture of safety:
· Encourage employees’ involvement and feedback and act on their suggestions.
· Develop a safety committee with the authority to create and implement changes.
Select an employee from the workforce to function as a full-time safety coordinator (without disciplinary authority) with the responsibility of making safety changes.