To improve employee participation in the safety program, clear communications are key.
If you are going to communicate something in safety, what do you want to have happen? How exactly do you want your people to participate?
Informing people isn’t enough anymore. Your people are already bombarded with, on average, four thousand marketing messages each day. Everywhere they look, they are getting access to another message – competing with your safety message - even as recently as this morning.
But let's say that you are above-average in compelling and engaging your people’s attention during a morning safety meeting, as soon as they leave the meeting, they are faced with hundreds more messages that all compete for attention. So, to combat this, you have to be clear.
If you want people to care about safety, you have to first care about them.
I was working with a group of minesite supervisors and we were discussing the needs of employees and how a supervisor can make sure that employee needs were being met. I asked this question: how can you show your employees that, as supervisors, you care?
Here are some of the responses:
Give good communication
Improve your listening skills
Be respectful of their needs
Engage them in problem-solving
Recognize employees for their good work
Take a time-out with employees
Help employees to re-focus
Show support for your people especially when they need it.
All good answers. In fact, a lot of necessary answers. But the answer that wasn’t mentioned was, perhaps, too obvious. It is the one thing that supervisors, managers, safety people, executives, and even fellow workers must do to show their fellow employees that they care.
Are you meeting the needs of your people in safety meetings?
How many times have you seen presenters, with 10 minutes of solid information, stretch it into a 90-minute presentation? How does that happen? Here’s how. The person organizing the safety meeting is trying to fill blocks of time instead of developing content that will make a difference to their people.
If you want to change safety performance, you have to change the approach and the conversation.
In safety, there are no trade secrets. The same set of rules apply to every company within an industry. Construction safety applies to all builders. Mining safety is the same for every mine. Electrical safety is the same for every electrician. Whatever your industry, your competitors don’t get a leg up because they have different rules to play by. Everyone has the same rules and the same code.
If you want your people to care, do and say the things that matter to them.
Why won't people just follow the safety rules? Why don't they speak up at meetings or take the paperwork seriously? Tough questions to ask if you’re a supervisor or safety person trying to get their people to care about safety. But, here's the good news: you can make people care about safety.
The supervisor is the first line of defense when it comes to complacency.
You probably take great pride and talk proudly of your people, competent teams who do excellent work. But, from time to time little issues are starting to show up in the form of small mistakes, and memory and judgment lapses. That’s complacency-creep.
We have the best people and the best safety processes more than ever, so you have to wonder why we are still hurting people?
For 50 years, safety has been promoted as being all about rules, processes, regulations, paperwork, inspections, reporting. We’ve organized a lot of meetings, and talked far too much about rules, and we’ve endured death by Powerpoint, and tried to get traction on the cutesy slogans, and tired, worn-out clichés. Oh, sure we've developed some new technology but mostly to make it easier to pencil-whip checklists and file reports. There’s not much that has been developed to make safety more engaging, and inspiring, and motivating.
Ever thought about how to make mission, vision and purpose statements more powerful and to help improve safety doing it? Even more powerful than a corporate mission statement is a crew mission statement. Kind of like a team purpose or plan that galvanizes the crew members.
It seems like your people don't care about safety, but they do. Yes, your people do care about safety. They just don't care the way you care about it, because they see safety differently than you do.
Everyone cares about something. However, what's appealing and motivating to you is not always appealing and motivating to someone else. Your goals for safety improvement may be important to you, but your people need to have a benefit in working harder to reach those goals.
In PeopleWork, Kevin Burns presents his M4 Method of people-centered management for safety. Practical, how-to steps that frontline supervisors and safety people can master to promote a relationship-based culture focused on mentoring, coaching, and inspiring teams.