2 questions supervisors can ask that predict workers’ safety performance

by on July 15, 2014 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network
Factory Workers Internal Audit

Are workers thinking about safety? Do they care?

Those are two crucial safety performance questions, according to a recent study. Researchers found that safety management systems are a great way to reduce workplace injuries, but the systems’ effectiveness is mediated by two factors: the cognitive engagement and the emotional engagement of workers.

That is, workers whose supervisors rated them as thinking about safety and caring about safety had lower injury rates than those workers who weren’t rated as engaged.

Think about that for a moment: If supervisors ranked workers as thinking about safety and caring about safety, then workers were doing something that could be seen. The study itself doesn’t say how the supervisors ranked engagement, only that they did rank some workers as more cognitively and emotionally engaged. (Note: Of the two, cognitive engagement – thinking about safety and showing that in their behavior—ranked more highly than caring about safety.)

To apply this research, brainstorm with your supervisors about what behaviors would indicate workers were thinking about safety, and what behaviors would indicate they cared. For example, workers who are cognitively engaged will ask for clarification about procedures, will notice if equipment isn’t inspected or is missing, and will offer their thoughts on safety improvements. Workers who are emotionally engaged will demonstrate enthusiasm for safety meetings, and will look out for the safety welfare of others during a shift by pointing out hazards or assisting with lifting.

As one frontline worker put it in a separate interview with Workplace Safety Network, “You have to watch out for each other.”

Bottom line: Supervisors should be on the lookout for caring and thinking patterns, and recognize and encourage them.

Source: Wachter, Jan, et al., “A system of safety management practices and worker engagement for reducing and preventing accidents: An empirical and theoretical investigation,” Accident Analysis and Prevention 68 (2014) 117–130.

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