Required employee safety observations are only completed by approximately 30% of the required workforce. And an astonishing 40% of all new hires will be injured within their first year of service.
I want to start by looking at the first one I mentioned, “Policies and procedures are not being followed.” There are many reasons why workers may not follow their employer’s safety policies and procedures, or standard operating procedures. The first thing that comes to my mind is, “Are workers aware of the policy or procedure?” If they’re not, it’s an easy fix… make them aware of the policies and procedures that relate to their work activities.
If workers are aware of the policies and procedures, yet decide not to follow them, the first thing that comes to mind is, “When the employee became aware of the policies and procedures, was accountability tied to the message?” What I mean is, did we explain that these are the policies and procedures and that we expect them to be followed each and every time, each and every day? Or this is the way this job is done, and we expect it to be done in this manner each and every time. Now, accountability relates to the consequences for not following the policies and procedures as required or performing a task as directed. Tying workplace policies and procedures to the consequences of not following them is one of the ‘MOST IMPORTANT’ principles of a successful safety management system (SMS).
Managers and supervisors should lead by example and follow the same policies and procedures that they’re asking employees to follow. That alone makes an important, yet unspoken statement.
Now. With regards to “Required employee safety observations or safety audits are not being performed.” Once again, there are many reasons why this may happen. Are workers aware of the requirement to complete the audit? Are supervisors providing workers the needed time to complete the audits? Are managers and supervisors encouraging their workers to complete the audits? And this is going to sound redundant, but is there accountability for not completing them? If the answer to any of these questions is “No,” then that’s a great place to start.
Finally, I believe that the statistics provided by this employer, “40% of all new hires will be injured in their first year of service” is a direct result of the first two we just discussed. See, policies and procedures are in place for a purpose. And ‘employee safety’ is the reason why the workplace safety policies and procedures are required under federal law. So, when they’re not being followed, it’s no coincidence that injuries continue to occur.
What it boils down to is that safety training is not always the answer. In fact, more times than not… that’s the case. The problem is usually a systematic failure within the management structure. And until each member of management understands their responsibility under federal workplace safety statutes, to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious injury or death, the organization will struggle to correct this. That is…. until a worker is seriously injured or killed. At that point, the government will step in and help initiate the needed changes while proposing severe civil or criminal penalties.
Pat Kelley, CET
Board Certified Environmental, Safety & Health Trainer