Engaging staff in safety – how to empower your people

by FM Media
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In most organisations, managing health and safety compliance is too big for one person to manage single-handedly. At the bigger end of town, it’s just not possible for facility managers to be everywhere at once and keep things running. It’s no secret that the more incidents and hazards reported, the better the visibility is into what is happening. So engaging your entire workforce in safety – from admin, to management, to heavy labour – is essential. Some facility managers have trouble letting go of control, without understanding that by making health and safety less complicated and empowering each individual to play a part, they will, in fact, gain better control and be able to perform their job more effectively.

Make safety everyone’s job

So often in businesses, staff treat health and safety as ‘not my job’, either because they can’t see the relevance to their day-to-day, or because it’s too complicated and overwhelming. This is where problems start. It’s important that all staff understand the consequences of not following safety standards by sharing examples of what could go wrong – not to instil fear but to communicate that accidents happen, and, particularly in a large workplace, it’s a shared responsibility to ensure they don’t. Training is the only way to do this. It doesn’t have to take days, but it does have to show staff what can happen if things are overlooked, and give them some simple guidelines on the things they should look out for that are worth reporting to facility managers.

Get your escalation structure right

It’s one thing to teach staff to be alert to health and safety hazards, but they’ve got to know who to report to and when. The simpler this is, the better. Create a clear line of sight between what’s happening on the ground and others in the business, including managers and executives, by having a reporting and escalation plan in place for minor hazards through to major incidents and risks. If not in place already, facility managers need to also lobby to make health and safety updates a standard feature of team, management and board meetings. Sadly, it often takes something to go wrong before the executive team is invested in health and safety. Don’t leave the door open for the question ‘how did this happen?’ by ensuring your staff and exec team are up to date on safety and your recommendations at all times.

Simplify reporting with new technology

In our experience working with large companies, it’s not unusual for them to have nine or 10 different EHS systems in place before switching to Vault. It’s no wonder staff aren’t engaged – the process is time-consuming, confusing, and rarely do they know who’s responsible for what. Technology is your best friend when it comes to implementing the aforementioned structures.

Today there are several cloud and mobile EHS solutions available for businesses of any size across any industry, which can be accompanied by consulting services to assist with training and implementation. Every worker these days has a smart phone, and there are apps available that can, for example, allow a staff member to take a photo of a spill that gets sent immediately via the app to the relevant manager. These systems can be synced to management and begin reporting processes. What it means is peace of mind for staff and facility managers due to the simple process of clicking a button on their phone, which allows them to contribute to responsible health and safety practice.

Use data to motivate staff

To ensure every staff member is engaged in the health and safety process, there has to be give and take. If staff are responsibly adhering to their reporting duties (whether online, via apps or spreadsheets) you have a responsibility to demonstrate how the data is being used. Systems like Vault can allow you to create monthly tracking reports that show, for example, a reduction in a particular type of incident. Using this data, you can set goals and even offer rewards to staff for further improvement. People like to work for companies with a conscience; Qantas calls itself the safest airline in the world, and their staff take pride in this too. As facility managers, it’s important to regularly use the data available to you to not only prevent accidents, but to demonstrate that the company genuinely cares about its staff. This will ensure their buy-in.

Listen to feedback

Don’t make the mistake of appeasing management while ignoring your staff when it comes to safety. They are on the ground and are often best positioned to not only report problems, but to give advice on what is or isn’t working well. Establish some sort of forum – either in smaller group meetings, via an intranet or cloud EHS systems where feedback can be heard and factored into decision making. Ultimately, an efficient and effective EHS function is built on good processes. If the processes aren’t working for people on the front line, this needs to be acknowledged and changed.

Written by Tim Dowling, General Manager Commercial Operations, Australia at Vault Intelligence.

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