As we celebrate OHSA’s Safe and Sound Week focusing on the theme of management leadership, finding and fixing hazards and increasing worker participation and engagement, I recognize that at Intelex, we are closely aligned in this mission with our software platform.
At Intelex, our clients are experiencing great success in protecting their employees by using data to make decisions that help keep the work environment safe. Fundamental concerns like auditing, training management, risk assessment and reporting safety hazards – along with being able to prioritize, track and eliminate such issues – can now be controlled within an electronic centralized safety management system.
With that said, there’s a side of safety management that OSHA called out in this year’s campaign that has long been elusive for some: worker participation. As a safety practitioner, it is a pivotal part of the process to have everyone involved, but more importantly, have them engage. The idea of employee engagement has quickly become one of the most critical indicators in how we judge success in an organization. When employees are genuinely involved, it is said that they are enthusiastic about their work and likely to invest in the safety plan, which of course, leads to returning them home to their families safe and healthy.
There is ample research that supports the connection between engagement and overall well-being. Organizations, where employees feel a strong bond to the organization, have reduced absenteeism, experience fewer accidents, have increased productivity, and are more profitable. When an employee feels like a partner who is participating in delivering the business plan, companies report astounding figures, lower turnover, lower medical cost, feelings of inclusiveness, and yes, better health and safety performance.
A recent Gallop poll indicated that engaged employees were five times less likely than non-engaged employees to have a safety incident and seven times less likely to have a lost-time safety incident, just by the company strengthening employee engagement.
Safety as a Core Value
Many management factors should be on the radar to increase employee participation and engagement. Still, I think there is one central driving concept that allows that rest to build from – safety as a core value.
With any organization, priorities change and push the management system in varying ways. Core values, on the other hand, are a set of few, but highly unmovable truths endorsed widely by the organization. Safety as a core value recognizes management’s commitment to safety and health, hence making it an unnegotiable part of the business plan.
It starts with a discussion at the top of the organization and begins when senior leaders demonstrate care, communicate expectations, and show public concern for employees. When an organization pursues safety excellence for selfless and humanistic reasons, there is a mindset that we safely produce products or render service with no wiggle room to change when there are competing operational priorities. Better said, the management team is known for their actions, and they are invested in the safety and health process.
OSHA’s Safe and Sound Week has provided three functional areas that should be considered in your safety work plan. The first of the three-legged stool approach is our bread and butter as safety practitioners, recognizing hazards to the work system and mitigating them. The other two certainly are harder to do, but I believe pivotal to sustainable success.
I would encourage you to work with your management team to set clear safety values and then gain full endorsement. I would also involve the workforce through participation activities and measure the process until they are naturally engaged. It is clear; engaged teams are most likely to learn and look to mitigate the risks in the work system that pose the most significant threats and deliver performance. It is also clear that they most likely will adopt a “brother’s keeper’ mentality that embraces the idea that we protect one another, and that allows the safety and health process to grow interdependent with deep organizational ownership.