Employee Participation Part of Your Safety Culture

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Employee Participation Part of Your Safety Culture

The success of any safety management system depends on the interaction with all of the employees in the organization. Therefore, as part of management, you do not have to solve all of the safety issues alone. You already have great resources available that you need to learn how to utilize, your employees. The ultimate goal of this interaction is to develop systems and/or methods that will help reduce the employee’s exposure to hazards. This not only makes good business sense, but also the right thing to do. The key is that employees are valuable problem-solvers because they are closest to the action and know the job, steps, and task better than anyone, as they interact with potential hazards daily. With this interaction between employees and the management team, better solutions are developed and implemented.

While I was researching and writing this chapter, I was watching a Reality TV show called “Red Jacket Firearms – Sons of Guns,” a gun show where they build, repair, and modify all types of guns for their customers. There was one situation that occurred that I thought would tie this chapter together. The following is the quote that I like, as in my opinion, it sets the stage for employee participation. The Manager of the shop wanted an historic cannon used in WWI, restored. As he approached his gunsmiths to talk about his idea on the restoration, the immediate response from his employees was, “The gun barrel is broken, what are you going to do with it?” The Manager came back and stated: “That is the difference between me and you, I do not look at problems, I only look at solutions.” The employee’s response was: “But who are you looking to solve the solution, the people with the problem!”

Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. – Henry Ford

Employee participation provides the means that everyone can develop and express their own opinion, suggestions, and commitment to safety, for both themselves and their co-workers.

I remember some time ago, I was discussing with a manager why he could not get his employees to participate. He stated that he had done everything that he knew to get this accomplished and could not understand why no one wanted to help him. After discussing this issue with him a few minutes, I made a statement that I think shocked him, “Have you asked them?” I asked him to take a walk with me and just talk to some of his most difficult employees. We talked to the employees and asked them if they would like to participate in resolving safety issues. The overwhelming response was “YES.” So the moral of the story is all you need to do is Just ask the employee if they want to participate in the process, instead of trying to mandate participation. If they know that you are serious and are willing to listen to their suggestion, comments, feedback, most likely all employees will want the opportunity to work with you.

Guidelines for Employee Participation

In order to provide employees with the opportunity to participate in activities such as establishing, implementing, and evaluating your safety management system and programs that support the management system you must set the stage. There are some basic key elements that can be used as a guidance to achieve involvement at the highest level from your employees. Some of these activities include the following:

  1. Regularly communicating with all employees in regards to workplace and safety-related issues
  2. Providing all employees with complete access to relevant information of specific programs
  3. Identifying methods to allow employees to become familiar with assessing and identifying hazards, prioritizing results of assessment, training, and program evaluation
  4. Establishing a way to report injuries, near misses, loss producing events, and hazards found promptly
  5. Providing prompt responses to all reports and suggested recommendations
  6. Allowing employees to conduct workplace assessments
  7. Allowing all employees to be involved in defining methods to identify specific hazards and fix identified hazards under their control. This can be accomplished by utilizing a team to help develop a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) to detail safety-related issues in each step and task for the job, thereby developing solutions to safe work practices. Refer to Chapter for a detail instructions on how to develop the JHA
  8. Allowing employees to develop and revise the workplace safety rules
  9. Providing training for both current and newly hired/transferred and seasoned employees on site-specific safety issues
  10. Assisting in developing and presenting safety-related information at safety meetings
  11. Conducting and participating in incident investigations
  12. Supporting co-workers by providing feedback on risks and assisting them in eliminating hazards
  13. Performing a pre-use or change analysis for new equipment or processes in order to identify hazards up front before use
  14. Providing the time and resources for employees to participate on joint labor-management committees and other advisory or specific purpose committees

We have just covered a long list of activities that you can use to get your employees involved in the safety process. This is only a basic list and can be expanded as necessary.

Many of these activities require specific training to ensure that each employee can perform their assigned functions proficiently using these techniques. The training does not need to be elaborate and can be conducted at the workplace by employees who are appropriately trained.

You need to recognize the value of employee participation and the increasing number and variety of employee participation arrangements can raise legal concerns. It makes good sense to consult with your human relations to make sure that your employee participation program conforms to any legal requirements.

Adapted from Draft Proposed Safety And Health Program Rule: 29 CFR 1900.1, Docket No. S&H-0027, public domain

Adapted from OSHA Web e-Tools, public domain


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James Roughton, CSP, Six Sigma Black Belt

Safety Professional Experienced in Safety Culture, Social Media, Web Technology, WordPress

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