Companies, particularly in the manufacturing industry, spend millions of dollars a year maintaining and improving workplace safety standards. A team of researchers in England recently broke down four key factors that affect workplace safety and outlined how to improve them.
Grouping the Factors
The factors that influence workplace safety, like many other things in human society, are many and varied. However they can be grouped under four main categories which overlap with each other:
1. The attitudes of the people who work there
2. Their perceptions
3. What motivates them to adhere to safety guidelines
4. How they behave when at work
Three experts who work at prominent British institutions—Sue Cox and Bethan Jones at Lancaster University Management School and Helen Rycraft of British Nuclear Fuels Ltd.—have drawn up a report on why some workplaces are safer than others. The report is called “Behavioural approaches to safety management within UK reactor plants.” In the report, they established the four categories listed above.
Let us look at each of these items in turn. By attitudes is meant what the various employees of a company value and consider to be important. These values are influenced in large part by those held by those in charge–the supervisors and managers. If a majority of the people who work for a given company can be induced to value their own safety and that of each other, then they will work harder to ensure that fewer accidents take place.
By perception is meant how the employees perceive the state of things where they work. Again, if people perceive a certain place as potentially unsafe they will either avoid it or take the necessary measures necessary to make it less dangerous.
What motivates people to work and act in a certain way? That is one thing that employees need to know in order to be able to get them to do the things that need to be done. It thus means that employers can motivate their employees to exercise the right of care that is deemed appropriate for a given situation.
How do people behave when they are at work? How much respect to do they show for their employers and for each other? Studying these things can reveal a great deal about how safe people are in this environment.
How employers can develop an effective safety leadership program. Carl Potter, who writes for the website of the Sideroad (“Practical advice, straight from the experts”) has come up with five things that factor into any workplace safety leadership program—expectations, communication, innovation, organization and appreciation.
Ways Employers Can Improve Workplace Safety
1. Clearly Express Safety Expectations
When people come to work in a given place, they almost always expect that they will be safe there. There must be a clear understanding of what people’s expectations of the workplace are. Only with such an understanding can they work towards meeting those expectations or else adjusting them to make them more realistic. Expectations that are not expressed and not recognized are a major cause of frustration with one’s job, poor work performance and high employee turnover.
2. Keep Communication Open
Different people have different communication skills. A safety leader must be able to analyze what his employees are doing so that he can get positive reactions from the people with whom he communicates.
3. Innovation and Improvement
Innovation and adjustment to change requires that people take the “big picture” into account. New technologies are constantly developing and companies need to adopt them if they are to compete with similar companies. Adapting safety policies to advancements in technology and workplace changes are essential to maintaining a high level of safety.
For safety requirements to be met, people must work as a team dedicated to meeting them. A good safety leader knows how to motivate his employees in that direction—and get them to lead each other there.
The consequences of injuries in the workplace are well-known and can include such costs as disability claims, personal injury lawsuits, employment law infractions, and fines. However, there are very real human tolls that workplace accidents can take on a workforce, including a decrease in morale and productivity. The safety leader must analyze his own reactions to given situations so that he can appreciate those who help meet his safety goals. Workplace safety is something that can be lived up to only if employees clearly understand what standards to hold and how to live up to them.