Poor attitude is a symptom, not a cause of safety non-compliance

Date Posted: 06/07/2021
Poor attitude is a symptom of safety non-compliance

Safety professionals may have to deal with employees (or even supervisors) who have a negative attitude toward safety. You might have had discussions about a need for “attitude adjustments.” In many cases, attitude is just a manifestation of a deeper issue, and the solution requires addressing those underlying reasons. Instead of thinking that you need to change attitudes, start thinking about changing the issues causing those attitudes.

Employees may have a number of reasons for negative attitudes. Maybe they don’t see the value of safety. Maybe they’re rebelling against authority. Maybe they think that safety procedures just slow things down. Maybe they gave in to peer pressure from a few negative workers. Until you address those underlying reasons, you won’t be able to change attitudes.

Your approach depends on the specific underlying reason, but a few approaches could cover a variety of issues. Possible approaches might include pointing out that:

  • Safety procedures protect employees, and they pay price for non-compliance, so ignoring safety literally hurts them the most.
  • Productivity is a priority, but productivity decreases if the line stops for an injured worker or when a worker has restrictions from an injury.
  • Productivity drives profits, but the costs of injuries directly reduce profits.

Rather than focusing on the attitude, address the reasons that employees ignore safety. If you can change their perspectives, the attitude adjustment will follow.

Manager support

All levels of management must support safety. If a supervisor is lax about promoting safety, that attitude will filter down to workers. Worse, if upper management doesn’t address a supervisor’s refusal to actively promote safety, they implicitly approve the lax attitude.

To help gain support from upper management, consider pointing out that a supervisor’s refusal to enforce safety has no consequences  — for the supervisor. However, employees face consequences when they get injured, and the company faces consequences in higher workers’ compensation rates, increased risk of OSHA inspections, decreased productivity, and decreased employee morale that can affect productivity and turnover.

Enforcing safety is part of every supervisor’s job, and refusing to perform that function should have consequences. When upper management delivers supervisor performance reviews, the review should reflect any failures to enforce safety. At the very least, supervisors should understand that they aren’t doing workers any favors by ignoring safety. Sooner or later, a serious injury will occur that might have been prevented if the supervisor had been more diligent.

How Safety Management Suite Can Help

Safety professionals often find themselves facing issues that aren’t covered by any regulation, such as poor attitudes. When the solution to the problem cannot be found in any government guidance document, try posting the topic in the Discussions area of the J. J. Keller® SAFETY MANAGEMENT SUITE. The service hosts the safety industry’s largest online discussion board, allowing you to easily connect with other safety professionals, ask for feedback, and share your experiences and expertise.

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