Employees are more likely to commit to something that benefits them.
We’ve officially entered into spring. It’s also, coincidentally, hiring season. I am working with a number of companies currently who are preparing to staff-up for their spring-summer work. There are about to be a lot of new faces on job sites and workplaces in the coming few months. My clients have all made commitments to ensure that safety is in the forefront for the spring-summer season of work.
However, without the employee commitment to safety, any new safety initiative falls flat. The majority of safety incidents happen at the front line. The largest numbers of workers are at the front line. The most amount of activity is at the front line. And so it is at the front line where the focus on safety needs to take place. It is at the front line where safety leadership is needed most.
Now, let’s be clear. Leadership is not another word for management, even though managers hijack the word and use it interchangeably with their own title. The truth is, you don’t need to have a management title to be a leader. In fact, some of the best job-site leaders have no title at all.
Every employee is quite capable of demonstrating some form of safety leadership. It’s as simple as caring about the well-being of others. Take the few extra moments to assess the hazards. Make the effort to fill out paper forms legibly or watching for and warning fellow employees about dangers or improper use of PPE. It could be as simple as paying full attention during safety briefings. Or, not allowing side-talk or distraction to interfere with getting the right information. These are some of the things that will have to happen at the front line to get better participation and results in safety. But that’s not the only place you need to focus.
Here are three more areas where you can get to work to build employee commitment to safety:
1Roll-out your re-commitment strategy. When Apple rolls-out a new iPhone, there is a lot of attention on the new product. Safety can take a lesson here. What gets focused on gets attention. Turn a boring and mundane safety meeting into a re-commitment event. Make your safety meeting one of the more powerful tools to re-introduce and give new life to your safety efforts. One of my clients, as part of a safety kick-off event, erected a large “I commit to safety” banner on the wall of the hockey arena. Then, they invited each of their 900 employees sign their names on the banner. Most people don’t give up their signature without ownership. Ask for the commitment from the employees as part of your safety event. Many safety meetings fall down in failing to ask for commitment and simply assuming they’ll get it. Don’t assume. Ask.
2Get the commitment of management. The safety program works best when everyone, front office to front line, gets behind it. Safety is not just rules for people who wear boots and hard hats. Safety is a personal value and a guiding principle. So, if you expect front line employees to commit to safety, those who guide the organization must commit as well. And they need to live the principles of safety leadership. A public declaration in front of witnesses is a contract based on good faith. In order for managers to become leaders, they have to first lead, not just manage. You lead best by example. What you focus on gets attention. Focus on safety and make your public declaration to it. Then keep your word.
3Focus on people. Sure, it is important to have a strong and robust safety management system in place. The proper procedures and processes supported by the right inspections and observations are necessary. But you can improve the results of your safety program when you begin to focus on people. Safety management systems focus on processes and procedures. Leadership focuses on people. And the more you can help your employees to become better people, the more you will improve your safety program. Remember, the goal is not to send people home in the same shape they came to work. That’s the least you’re allowed to do by law; the bare minimum. That is the expectation of every employee anyway. Instead, you want to send your people home better than they showed up at work. Focus on improving not only the safety record. Focus on improving the people who contribute to the safety record.
Employees are more likely to commit to something that benefits them, that honors them and that everyone participates in. If you want to improve employee commitment to safety, improve the conditions for employees. Ask each employee to voluntarily step up to becoming safety leaders and then support them when they do.
Kevin Burns has authored ten books on human performance and safety, including his most recent release, PeopleWork - The Human Touch in Workplace Safety. Buy it now on Amazon. Then, consider bringing Kevin's consulting expertise to your company or have him speak at a safety event.
©2017 ZeroSpeak Corporation and Kevin Burns.
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