An organizational culture that encourages early reporting proactively addresses current and potential health and safety issues. The most important aspect of establishing a culture of early reporting is employees’ opportunities to engage and participate in their organization’s safety management efforts — not just being subject to them. Organizations of any size can take simple steps toward adopting this framework, regardless of the extent of resources dedicated to safety.
Develop a workforce that is vigilant about hazards
Establishing a proactive health and safety culture cannot happen without developing your workforce’s awareness of hazards. If employees do not possess a high level of knowledge about hazards, then successful safety management will be difficult. A common mistake many organizations make is differentiating between awareness and training, as both play vital roles. Training encompasses teaching the employee where and how to safely perform a task, such as operating equipment or executing a standard operating procedure (SOP). Awareness refers to an employee recognizing when and how to apply the training they received.
Examine how your organization develops employees’ safety training and awareness. Make changes that ensures employees receive the training needed to execute their job tasks safely and increases their situational awareness. This can be done through activities such as toolbox talks, peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and task demonstrations that further enhance the safety of the work your employees accomplish.
Engage your job safety experts
Job safety expertise should not reside solely in the safety department or management ranks. Job safety experts also include the employees completing the work on the production floor, in the field or at the job sites. They are not only keenly aware of their specific job tasks and responsibilities but can also identify factors or situations that could prevent them from safely performing their work. Organizations that practice a top-down approach to safety education often ignore valuable insights that these on-the-job experts can provide.
Involve and rely on the employees completing the work when developing processes, procedures and even training materials (including informing how you train employees). This involvement can begin to shift your organization’s safety culture. Frontline employees and supervisors will likely feel that their investment brings value and learn how their input informs how your organization establishes and practices safety programs. When employees are invited to take ownership of their contribution to a safety culture, your organization gains more safety-minded employees. Identify opportunities to engage people through continuous improvement events and job hazard analyses.
The ease of reporting safety concerns is paramount to safety culture. Too often, organizations develop reporting processes that involve long forms and complicated submission workflows. Two simple reports that help establish an early reporting culture are observation reporting and near-miss reporting programs.
Observation reporting refers to documenting safe or unsafe conditions or actions in a work area that can influence employee safety, equipment/machinery functionality, building safety or protection of an asset subject to peril or loss. A near miss is any unplanned event that occurs that could have the potential to produce loss, injury or damage to property or equipment. Both reports provide low-friction opportunities for organizations to collect valuable information that may help prevent future incidents from occurring.
By effectively utilizing the information collected, your organization can establish, drive and sustain a successful safety management system and encourage employees to participate in and take ownership of the organization’s overall safety efforts. It can also help instill employees’ skills in participating in investigations and helping to determine any corrective and preventive actions.
While observation and near-miss reporting programs can help establish a high-performing health and safety culture, if they are not managed correctly, they could erode employee trust in your safety programs. Leadership and management should offer continuous feedback and engagement opportunities until closure has been reached for observation or near misses reported. If neither communication nor involvement occurs, employees may question the benefits of early reporting and the integrity of the safety program.
UL Solutions EHS Advisory Services team can help support your organization create a practical action for creating a culture of early reporting. Visit our Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Advisory Services page to learn more or contact us to schedule a complimentary EHS Advisory Services assessment.
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