If you post signs at your workplace that say “Safety First,” how can employees still get the impression that production is more important?
The answer is through other signs. Sure, no one posts contradictory signs that say, “Production First.” But the signs take other forms such as output graphs, production pressures and reward programs that suggest production is the real No. 1 priority.
Only when employees understand the proper integration of safety and production are they able to make the right choices to make sure it really is “Safety First” at your company.
So how do you get them to do that? It’s all about communication.
Learning to choose
It’s clearly not enough to tell them that safety comes first – if that were the case, the signs would be all you need.
Employees have to learn how the consequences of their choices can impact the things they value most. That’s according to Tania Van der Stap, founder and a safety consultant with Align Strategic Management Services in Australia, who spoke at this year’s ASSE Safety 2008 conference.
She suggests speaking to employees in small groups that have structure but provide plenty of time for open discussion. Include supervisors and managers to show all levels of employees are involved in this discussion.
An effective start is to ask workers to talk about current perceptions about workplace challenges such as safety versus production and what drives risk-taking.
Then discuss the nature of hazards at your workplace. What are the risks associated with them? What are the potential consequences of these risks?
The point is to acknowledge the hazards and how important it is to manage them well, not just by mechanical controls, but also through personal behavior (choices).
All this needs to be personalized. Ask employees about their personal work/life goals. Example: Employees’ No. 1 priority might be to spend more time with or provide well for their families.
How do employees reach these goals? What would be the impact on these goals if the employee had a workplace accident?
Next to last step: Relate all this back to safety and making choices. Challenge employees to reconsider benefits versus consequences of risk-taking.
To reinforce this discussion, have some real-life stories ready about workplace accidents and how they affected the victims.
What do you think of this suggested approach? How do you handle the clash between safety and production at your workplace? Let us know in the Comments Box below.