Engaging employees in workplace safety can be a formidable challenge.
- Know Regulatory Requirements: Keeping abreast of changes to federal and state work safety requirements will help you safeguard the workplace and stay out of legal trouble. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work both maintain an updated list of regulations as well as any breaking news. If you run a small business, make sure to check out the section devoted solely to you, as it includes resources to help you comply with standards even if they seem above your means. Search industry trade sites for even more specificity.
- Educate: Developing safety skills is like any type of learning; you have to get the basics down before you can move on to the fun stuff. That said, take the time to research the best curriculum so you can keep your audience on board for as long as possible. Above all, keep the programming varied. Bring in guest speakers from a range of disciplines – a fire safety expert one month, a construction safety consultant the next. Contact the American Society of Safety Engineers to find consultants in your area and industry.
- Enforce Accountability: The best learning happens not in abstract but right on the floor while an employee is completing a task. Train and assign a safety officer to monitor and coach employees on proper procedure. Direct, one-on-one instruction and modeling will do more to change habits than anything else you can do.
- Get Creative with Engagement: To truly create a culture of safety, engage your employees with creative communications or games. Consider, for instance, printing new safety facts each month on the back of paychecks and testing employees in regular trivia competitions, which can also include non-work related topics to keep it fun. Similarly, run a safety contest and have different departments compete against one another. This could be anything from safety bingo to an online treasure hunt to a safety graphics contest.
- Be Consistent and Persistent: No amount of training will be effective without consistency. Follow up regularly with employees and trainers, especially in regards to any safety lapses. Reward good habits with time off, early leave, cash bonuses, or, for maximum employee investment, a prize decided by the employees themselves.
- Know the Brains behind the Brawn: Last but not least, understand employee psychology. Most employees tend to lapse on good habits if not reminded, but they’ll chafe if they feel too babied. Emphasize the importance of workplace safety not through lecturing or punishment but by emphasizing your concern for their health and by demonstrating to what extent you’ll go to make the process engaging.
Rob Toledo is outreach coordinator for digital marketing and communications agency, Distilled Creative.
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