Improving the way supervisors respond to employees’ work-related health and safety concerns can produce significant and sustainable reductions in future injury claims and disability costs. In fact, supervisors trained to properly respond, communicate and problem solve with employees reduced new disability claims by 47 percent and active lost-time claims by 18 percent, according to findings from the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety.
Even a single, two-hour workshop for super-visors can result in employees reporting discomfort more promptly, feeling less blamed and having more positive discussions with supervisors after injuries.
• What systems exist to encourage employees to report all injuries and musculoskeletal symptoms?
• What level and types of medical treatment are available on site?
• How does the return to work process operate, particularly with respect to communication with medical providers and provision of modified duty?
• Who regularly communicates with those who are out of work due to an injury?
Employees need to know company policies and procedures—that you want work performed safely—and all employees should receive regular updates and reinforcement of work rules, hazard recognition, and equipment selection. To be effective, training should go beyond the standard lecture to deliver information through demonstrations, workshops and hands-on activities. Also, do not limit training to non-management employees.
Management personnel need safety training to ensure proper implementation, enforcement and assessment of your company’s plan. For example, as part of his duties a new supervisor enforces the safety program. Do not assume that he has the right tools to do that job. Knowing and following a safety program is not the same as knowing the work rules and making sure that others follow them. New supervisors need help learning how to manage people, provide feedback, and use discipline when appropriate.
The questions below will help you improve communication regarding safety policies and procedures in your organization.
• How do you ensure the competency of those who do on-the-job training?
• How are safety metrics communicated to the workforce?
• How often do employees receive formal safety instructions (not including signs)?
• What incentives do employees have for making safety suggestions, and what response do they receive?
• What efforts are made to integrate safety with other production and process methodologies such as Six Sigma or 5S?
• How does your company remain up-to-date with current regulations and standards and communicate them to operations management and employees?
• How are individual serious injuries and accidents communicated to management?
There are many different opinions about the right approach to safety programs and some companies will have mature, highly effective safety programs while others may focus entirely on fulfilling their regulatory responsibilities—which leaves much room for improvement. The companies that weave a continuously improving safety program into alignment with production process management and include cross-functional managerial and employee involvement, will have the most success at achieving the ultimate goal of having all employees return home safely from work every day.