When safety enforcement fails, try encouragement

Date Posted: 02/28/2022
Safety Encouragement

During a worker shortage, some employers are reluctant to discipline or terminate employees for safety violations, and have cut back on enforcement. You can, however, find positive ways to encourage compliance with safety rules or policies. Using positive reinforcement over discipline can also make your company a better place to work, and that could help reduce turnover.

To offer encouragement, determine the underlying reasons that workers ignore the rules, then, develop an approach to counter those reason. Possible justifications and solutions might include:

Workers don’t recognize or understand why the procedures are necessary.

Explain the hazards that the procedures control, then ask for input on alternatives. Making employees part of the solution shows that you value their input, and increases buy-in. They should better understand why the procedures were adopted.

They don’t wear PPE because it’s uncomfortable or creates other problems.

Evaluate the fit, provide anti-fog treatments, or otherwise address the problem. If possible, rotate employees through tasks that require PPE so they get a break from wearing it. They’ll also get cross-trained, and trying something new reduces boredom.

They never got hurt, so they don’t see the value, or think they’re smart enough to avoid hazards.

Explain that “it won’t happen to me” is not a good strategy. Discuss how a moment of distraction could result in serious injury, and how the procedures prevent that outcome. Ask questions to show them that they aren’t as safe as they think:

  • What methods/processes/guards protect you?
  • What hazards do they protect against?
  • What injuries could happen from skipping a safety procedure?

They skip safety to save time or work more comfortably.

Discuss injuries that could occur and the impact they’d have on workers’ lives, including their personal lives and the effect on their families. It’s not about shortcuts today, it’s about long-term health and safety throughout their careers.

If all else fails

Some people still might not follow the rules. Ask these holdouts to write a letter to their family, describing what they’d say after a serious injury that resulted in a hospitalization or fatality. Often, this forced confrontation with consequences will provide the necessary wake-up call.

How Safety Management Suite Can Help

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.

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