Employee involvement provides the means through which workers develop and express their own commitment to safety and health.
The best safety and health management systems involve employees at every level of the organization. Employees are often those closest to the hazard, and have the most first-hand knowledge of workplace hazards. Clearly, the employer has ultimate responsibility for its workers, however, using employees’ knowledge and experience to help identify and resolve problems can make the system more effective.
It's difficult to have an effective safety and health program without developing a corporate safety culture that encourages genuine employee involvement. When you mention involvement in safety, most people think only about “employee” involvement, but to do it right, management should be out front and involved.
Management needs to lead by example and that means communicating and following through with action. This module will discuss some of the components of employer and employee involvement in safety.
Management in your company should take prompt consistent action when responding to safety and health issues. Doing so will demonstrate their commitment to addressing safety and health concerns and encourage employee participation. Management should respond to employees' reports of actual or potential hazards and any other safety concerns employees might have. There should be an effective process for employees to report such hazards.
The employee reporting a real or potential hazard should be notified by management of the outcome in a timely manner. Reporting hazards should made be without fear of reprimand or any safety reporting process is doomed to failure.
The employees in your company should be given an opportunity to provide input regarding recommendations on safety and health products, procedures, and training as it pertains to daily work operations. For example, employees could be given some responsibility to test out products or conduct research to substantiate recommendations.
Employee input could be provided through the suggestion system, the reporting of hazards, or through actions the safety and health committee initiate. Employees could participate in a variety of ways such as; a trainer, inspector, or problem solver.
More than a third of all accepted disabling claims are sprains/strains and other musculoskeletal disorders. Although construction work will always include lifting, carrying, and pulling (among others), many contractors have made great strides in preventing these types of injuries through pre-task planning, employee involvement, medical management, and training their crews to recognize risk factors and best practices.
One of the best ways employees can participate in the company's safety program is to help conduct safety inspections. This gives employees a greater sense of ownership in safety and it can be a real educational experience too!
Depending on the hazardous nature of the construction on the worksite, weekly or daily inspections may be needed to effectively identify hazards and unsafe actions.
It's important to understand that designing, developing and deploying safety "programs" is basically a management function requiring effective organizational skill. Many companies develop and implement formal safety recognition programs because that is what they've been told works best and that is what everyone else does.
There are many different types of safety recognition program strategies used and promoted these days. Of course, some are more effective than others, but there is certainly no one-fits-all program. To be successful, the recognition program should fit the unique culture of the organization.
For instance, you can't have a highly successful safety recognition program in an oppressively authoritarian corporate culture displaying tough-coercive leadership due to the lack of positive relationships between managers and employees.
A recognition program, within a controlling (typical) safety culture will usually think a “managed” program is necessary to be successful. The “suggestion box” is likely to be used to maintain anonymity which is a symptom of a lack of trust. It just won’t work.
On the other hand, a world-class safety culture may not have the need to develop a managed safety recognition program with formal procedures: why?
Because managers will likely perceive the process of recognition as their opportunity to demonstrate leadership through recognition so that ultimately, positive working relationships are established or reinforced. You can learn more about leadership styles and recognition systems in Course 700.
The purpose of a safety and health committee is to give employees the ability to participate in the implementation of the safety and health system that exists within your company.
The committee in your company should be comprised of management and employee representatives. The committee should meet at least monthly.
The committee should:
The employees in your company should be encouraged to make safety and health suggestions to help improve a process, prevent an accident, or to make any improvement in the safety and health system.
The suggestion system should be implemented by a designated person, usually the safety director, who will be responsible for determining priority and the proper means of implementation. It's important to remember that in effective safety cultures, it's not necessary to have a policy that anonymity will be assured because a high level of trust exists between managers and employees.
Safety suggestions should be shared with the Safety and Health Committee for input. Suggestion forms may be placed in suggestion boxes or given directly to a designated person such as the immediate supervisor or safety committee chairperson.
OSHA requires employer to make sure employees are able to voice safety and health concerns without fear of reprisal. Think about it: would a perception of reprisal for voicing a safety concern benefit the company? No way!
More specifically, no person will discharge or in any manner discriminate against any employee because the employee has:
Prior to or during an OSHA inspection of a workplace, any employee or representative (usually a union person) may notify an OSHA Compliance Safety and Health Officer, formally (in writing) or informally verbally), of any violation of the Act which they have reason to believe exists in such workplace.
Your construction company is more likely to receive formal recognition within the construction industry, safety industry, and nationally if management makes a strong commitment to safety as a core value. On the other hand, if your company merely supports safety as a "priority," recognition is not as likely because the company will probably not achieve the same level of excellence in safety. Why is that? Core values do not change: priorities do.
Let’s take a closer look at an example from Opp Construction in Grand Forks, North Dakota:
Opp Construction was named the nation’s safest construction company in 2012 by the Associated General Contractors of America. Organizers of the top award say Opp Construction won the award because of its “exceptional leadership in safety.” The association’s president added this company was “dedicated to the development and implementation of premier safety and loss prevention programs.“
“Opp Construction also showed outstanding guidance in safety and occupation health management, risk control, safety training, work site hazard identification and control, and safety program innovation.”
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