To improve safety, focus more on ‘average’ workers

Date Posted: 09/20/2021

Average WorkersEvery supervisor needs to focus on rewarding top performers and addressing the problems of bottom performers. Unfortunately, this can result in a failure to focus on anyone else. To get the most return on your safety efforts, increase your company’s focus on the “average” workers who make up the majority of the workforce.

A workforce often gets sorted into three groups:

  • The top performers (10 to 15 percent),
  • The bottom performers (10 percent or less), and
  • The “average” workers (the remaining 70 to 80 percent).

The best workers have the highest output and probably the lowest injury rates; they likely get the most recognition. The bottom workers are least productive and may have a lax attitude toward safety; they are usually the focus of improvement efforts.

Since time and resources are limited, the middle group might not receive recognition or encouragement to improve — yet a small improvement among so many individuals can substantially increase your overall results.

The forgotten middle

Workers who don’t stand out as exceptional or troublesome may get taken for granted. The result can be that a majority of workers may feel overlooked, ignored, unappreciated, and unmotivated to improve.

Not everyone can be a top-performer, but most could be more involved in safety efforts. Consider the effects if that middle 80 percent increased productivity or safety by just a few points. Even a relatively small increase in their knowledge of safety and their ability to recognize hazards would add dozens of eyes and ears to your safety efforts. And unlike workers in the bottom group, the “average” workers won’t push back against your efforts; they may even welcome the attention.

Ask supervisors to consider where they focus the majority of their attention. If the “average” employees haven’t been getting much attention, increase efforts to recognize their contributions and help them feel appreciated. This might include:

  • Encouraging them to identify and report hazards,
  • Recognizing their successes,
  • Getting them involved in safety committees (or at least asking for feedback), and
  • Showing appreciation for following safe work practices.

This will require finding time for the renewed focus, but the results will be worth the effort.


How Safety Management Suite Can Help

Audits & Inspections

To increase everyone’s understanding of safety and improve hazard recognition, consider having workers join some walk-through 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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