Worker Engagement in Safety Management Systems Improves Safety Culture and EHS Performance

Environment, health and safety (EHS) performance significantly improves when workers are actively engaged in a company’s safety culture and practices through a safety management system.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may have said it best.

“To be effective, any safety and health program needs the meaningful participation of workers and their representatives. Workers have much to gain from a successful program and the most to lose if the program fails,” they say. But as many safety professionals can attest, employee engagement is easier said than done.

Businesses have long accepted that strong employee engagement has a direct link to better productivity and profitability. Likewise, environment, health and safety (EHS) performance significantly improves when workers are actively engaged in a company’s safety culture and practices through an effective safety management system. A Gallop study observed that “engaged employees produce better business outcomes than other employees — across industry, company size and nationality, and in good economic times and bad. But only 15 percent of employees worldwide and 35 percent in the U.S. fall in the ‘engaged’ category.”

The Industrial Safety and Hygiene News (ISHN) reported in an article published in late 2022 that “engaged employees were five times less likely than non-engaged employees to have a safety-related incident and seven times less likely to have a lost-time incident. The average cost of a safety incident was six times lower for engaged employees compared to non-engaged ones.”

According to OSHA, effective safety and health management systems:

  • Encourage all workers to participate and feel comfortable providing input and reporting their safety and health concerns. Engaged workers are provided access to information that allows them to effectively participate and given opportunities to be a part of program design and implementation.
  • Often result in improved quality and production, because engaged workers take pride in the work they do and are apt to follow best practices to achieve personal excellence. On the flipside, disengaged workers place an additional burden on the workload of others and increase the likelihood of workplace hazards and incidents.

How might you go about convincing and encouraging your organization’s employees to take on a more meaningful role in establishing, operating, evaluating and improving your safety management system? Check out these 10 tips for some answers.

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