Your people want and deserve a blueprint for success in safety - something more than rules and procedures.
Safety buy-in happens when employees figure out what they gain, not what they could lose. You don't buy-in to a financial plan, a healthy lifestyle or a good education to avoid what you might lose. You look for your wins. Instead of reminding workers of what they might lose if they don't comply, safety should show people how life is better because of it.
Safety has been tethered to fear and scare-tactics is because fear causes compliance. A cop at the side of a highway can causes fear which causes short-term compliance. But not everyone exceeds the speed limit and not everyone acts like a yahoo on the job site. Many have already chosen safety for themselves. They already believe that they have much to live for and want to stick around a long, long time. Many already make smart choices, safe choices.
But still, safety employs images of severed limbs, injury, and the obligatory gravestone. These images are designed to get compliance, not buy-in. Unfortunately, exposing good people to bad marketing (scare tactics) undermines your safety message. These undermining messages are the work of safety people lacking solid people and management skills. When you have little else, scare them.
Instead, safety people and supervisors should focus on the positive side of safety. Here are five good reasons why you must:
1Most workers don’t get hurt. It’s a fact that the majority of workers go home safely. So why spend the majority of your safety effort focused on the small chance of harm? Instead, focus on the overwhelming likelihood of safety when they follow the safety program. Reinforce the positive outcome of working the safety program.
2Enforcement needs repetition. A policeman at the side of the highway makes you take your foot off the gas. That is until you can no longer see the policeman in the rear view mirror. The same is true at work. If employees don’t buy-in to safety, you will need to enforce their compliance and you will get it, until they can’t see you anymore. But, if employees own safety as a personal value, you can trust they will do the right thing, regardless of who is watching.
3People aren’t stupid. Scare tactics are perceived as manipulation. Employees can figure that out. Treating your people like simpletons who aren't capable of figuring it out for themselves insults their value. If you want mature and responsible work done by mature and responsible people, approach them in a mature and responsible way. Safety needs to grow up and show some maturity.
4Good things in life don’t sell themselves negatively. Lives are enriched by safety the same as a solid financial plan, good health, and a good education. Success-based strategies focus on positive outcomes. People want to see clearly what they can achieve by following the plan. If you want to get your people to buy-in to safety, focus on what they gain instead of what they might lose.
5Partnerships create ownership. When you inspire your people, and value them, and trust them, and involve them in safety, they buy-in for the long-term. When people are given the opportunity to improve their own workplaces and job sites, they step up and buy-in. That means your people become your partners in safety. Partners step up and take ownership. Partners know and accept their role in being responsible for safety success.
Everyone wants to be treated as smart and capable. When employees are treated with respect they will take ownership of safety as a whole. When they take ownership, pride ensues. When pride is involved, standards are raised.
Negative just doesn't work anymore. Your people don't want to be told over and over what "not" to do. They don't need to hear a message of "don't do what I did." You don’t go to the grocery store with a list of things not to buy.
Your people want and deserve a blueprint for success in safety - something more than rules and procedures. Offer your people real strategies and ideas to move them from simple compliance to safety leadership. Look at how safety makes a positive impact in their lives and in their workplace. Focus on that. Leave the scare tactics for those who have no other skills. Your good people deserve better than that.
Kevin Burns gives engaging, entertaining and inspiring speeches to front-line employees at safety meetings. He also works with supervisors and safety managers on-site or in keynote presentations at conferences. He is an expert in how to get through to people. Kevin helps organizations integrate caring for and valuing employees through their safety programs. Kevin Burns is a management consultant, safety speaker and author of "The Perfect Safety Meeting" and "Running With Scissors - 10 Reasons To Invest in Safety In Slow Times."(c) Can Stock Photo