To improve safety awareness, designate safety advocates

Date Posted: 08/09/2021

Safety AdvocateA supervisor’s workday includes many obligations, so delivering safety reminders might not get checked off the “do to” list every day. One option to help increase safety awareness might be identifying at least one employee on each team to serve as a safety advocate.

A safety advocate is a team member who supports safety and reinforces the company’s safety culture. Other employees may be more willing to listen to a coworker, since any feedback won’t seem like it comes from management.

Identifying candidates

You’ll need a volunteer, since the advocate must embrace the role, and you’ll want volunteers who have earned the respect of coworkers. The ideal advocate is someone who participates out of a desire to help others. Potential candidates might include an individual who:

  • Knows someone (friend, family member, coworker) who was injured at work and wants to help others avoid that fate; or
  • Has a personal story regarding safety, such as a personal injury or frightening near-miss incident.

If you can identify likely individuals and present the safety advocate role as a development opportunity, the new safety “deputies” can offer extra eyes, ears, and support.

Training needed

A safety advocate will need training, but cannot learn everything at once. Identify a few key issues that have been a problem and focus on those topics. You can always add additional items in the future.

Initial training might also offer guidance on how to remind coworkers to follow the rules. For instance, ask the safety advocate to share the experience that caused him or her to volunteer and to use phrases such as, “I’m worried you’ll get hurt. I have a friend who lost two fingers reaching past a guard.” If they don’t have personal stories, give them examples from your company’s experience or other real-world examples.

Although they’ll tell coworkers to “follow the rules” in a practical sense, their purpose is to deliver reminders and encouragement, not threaten to report violations. Essentially, safety advocates lead from the middle by inspiring others.

This experience can also prepare the advocate for advancement to leadership roles or taking on more responsibilities. If moving to another role isn’t an option, the advocate could be given a bonus, or those extra responsibilities could be considering when calculating pay raises.

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How Safety Management Suite Can Help

Self-paced online safety training

To make safety advocates even more effective, their responsibilities could include assisting with internal audits. The Audits feature in the J. J. Keller® SAFETY MANAGEMENT SUITE provides numerous ready-to-use checklists with questions on dozens of topics. You can modify the checklists for your operations, and even assign audit responsibilities to others. The results can help you identify potential hazards and address them before an incident occurs.

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