When employees violate safety rules, they might need reminders or refresher training. For a first or second violation, make an effort to identify any barriers that could be addressed, such as uncomfortable PPE or ergonomic design problems. In some cases, however, you might find that an employee is deliberately ignoring the rules (violations continue even after a reminder) and discipline or even termination may be necessary.
Before delivering a reminder or reprimand about safety rules, consider two things:
First, consider the how to deliver the reminder. Your reaction could have either positive or negative consequences. There’s a significant difference between reminding employees to work safely so they don’t get injured, and simply yelling at them for breaking the rules.
How you deliver the message will impact whether the employee recognizes the importance of (and reason for) a rule, or whether the employee feels resentful about the meeting. Delivering reminders (or disciplinary warnings) by highlighting the goal of injury prevention helps employees view safety as an objective. This affects whether they change habits to protect themselves, or whether they follow the rules so they don’t get fired.
Second, consider the consequences of your delivery on other employees, including those who consistently follow the rules. The employee given the reminder will likely talk to coworkers about the experience. When the story gets around, will other workers likely feel good that the company is genuinely concerned about keeping everyone safe? Or will they feel stressed about inadvertently breaking a rule and getting yelled at?
Related, what impact could that story have on their willingness to report problems in the future? Will it motivate them to continue following the rules? Or will they fear getting a similar reprimand in the future?
The consequences of delivering safety reminders extend beyond the individuals directly involved and create long-term impressions that influence the attitudes of many employees. When planning a potentially confrontational meeting like this, consider all the cascading consequences that could flow from that interaction. The impression you create could shape the perspectives of many employees.
Although delivering reminders can be uncomfortable, remembering that the goal is preventing injury may help reduce your anxiety. Prepare for these meetings by reminding yourself that the purpose is to protect all workers, not merely to assign blame or enforce rules. If discipline becomes necessary, it should be clear that the employee failed to improve after repeated opportunities, and that discipline was a final effort to protect the worker (and others) from injury.
Communicating the importance of safety and getting buy-in requires explaining the “why” as well as the “how.” To effectively communicate, a consistent message is needed. The plan templates in the J. J. Keller® SAFETY MANAGEMENT SUITE Plans and Policies area can get you started with plans like our Safety and Health Program or our Injury and Illness Prevention Program.