How to build workers’ safety commitment – & how to wreck it

by on December 18, 2012 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network
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November 2009: Defense Horizons. As frontline supervisor, you know you have a crucial role in improving your workers’ level of commitment to their jobs – and that includes safety.

A recent study shows that you can foster – or wreck – commitment based on the following factors:

1. Openness to feedback from workers
Wreck it: Never ask for feedback or input, seem indifferent to it, or seem welcoming but never follow up. Denigrate questions and criticize workers’ attempts
to take initiative.

Build it: Ask for safety suggestions, give thanks for those offered, and follow up with the person. Build on and spread ideas workers come up with.

How to do it: Not all safety suggestions are good. But even ones that aren’t helpful express an underlying safety concern. It only takes a few moments to identify that safety concern.

For example, say a worker asks to slow down for safety reasons. If it’s a good reason (e.g., a machine seems to jam more than usual), address that. But maybe there is no problem with the machine and the problem is the operator has misadjusted a guard. Addressing the guard issue will build that person’s trust in your interest in their safety – and thus build their commitment, too.

2. Giving credit where credit is due
Wreck it: Fail to give credit for worker’s efforts, suggestions and initiative. Don’t offer thanks or praise for helpful suggestions or recognize of good safety performance.

Build it: Reward and recognize individual and team accomplishments.

How to do it: Reward, praise and recognition should match the seriousness or peril of the safety issue. If one person removes a trip hazard, you can mention it at the next safety meeting, saying that’s the kind of safety commitment you want.

For more serious issues, a letter of commendation in their file plus public recognition. If someone saves another’s life, you may want greater recognition, such as senior execs recognizing it and holding a formal award ceremony.

3. Share hardships; model correct behavior
Wreck it: Any kind of special privilege for yourself will set up “us v. them” thinking and weaken their safety commitment. Don’t make regular rounds or communicate.

Build it: Whenever possible, share hardships and model the safe behavior you want to see in others. Examples:

  • Extreme weather – cold or heat. Avoid too much time in a heated or airconditioned vehicle or office, when possible. Be out there with them.
  • Use of PPE on site. You have your own; it’s in the same condition you expect of them. You inspect your gear as you want them to.
  • Visitors (especially senior execs) are held to same standard as workers, wear PPE, stay away from unguarded edges, and follow all safety rules.

Keys: Lots of interaction and communication. Addressing hardships and taking suggestions goes a long way to renewing commitment.

Source: Bartone, Paul, et al., “To Build Resilience,”

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