The secret weapon in the war against employees who won’t report hazards or injuries turns out to be their supervisors, according to a pair of recent studies.
Even though the two studies looked at different groups, the conclusion of the authors was similar, according to an article on safetyandhealthmagazine.com.
In one study, researchers talked with teenage workers in two Canadian cities about the workplace hazards they experience and how they respond to them.
One purpose of the study was to measure the effectiveness of campaigns targeting teens in Canada that promote the benefits of speaking up about dangerous work.
Despite that campaign, the vast majority of young workers interviewed said they take a wait-and-see approach to workplace safety concerns. They weren’t taking the advice to speak up about hazards.
Why? Because the teens:
- feared being fired
- viewed themselves as inexperienced newcomers
- said their supervisors would act with indifference to their report, and
- felt powerless at work.
When did they finally speak up? When they compared notes with co-workers who supported their observation. Then they had the power of a group that might tell their supervisor together about a safety concern.
Study author Sean Tucker of the University of Regina in Saskatchewan says one thing companies can do to change this attitude is get supervisors to show employees they genuinely care and want them to speak up.
They didn’t report ‘little’ injuries
In the second study, 27% of surveyed construction workers — slightly more than one out of four — said they didn’t report injuries. Why? The main reasons were that they thought the injuries were small, getting hurt was part of the job and they feared negative consequences.
Lead author Taylor Moore, an Evaluation Fellow at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommended companies develop a “positive error management climate” that promotes sharing near-miss and small injury information with supervisors. These incidents should be viewed as learning experiences, not something for which they can get punished.
Moore says supervisors need to be open and create a more personal relationship with workers. Employees can then see their supervisor not as someone to be feared but as someone they can bring problems to.
How has your company encouraged workers to openly share their experiences with near-misses and smaller injuries? Let us know in the comments below.