We forget things. Wedding anniversaries, birthdays, solving algebra equations, where you parked, what time your appointment is next Tuesday … the list goes on and on.
In some cases, the consequences of, say, forgetting a wedding anniversary are highly undesirable. While on the other hand, forgetting where you parked is a passing nuisance.
However, EHS professionals know all too well the sometimes tragic consequences of failed memories and forgotten safety information.
How do we promote safety in the workplace? Read on to find out.
Why we forget
Ever walked into a room and forgot why you're there? In life, all our attention is on doing. We don't try to remember everything. When we walk into a room, we're focusing on the doing (getting there) rather than the reason why.
Also, forgetting is an essential brain function, preventing information overload.
Our brains receive countless pieces of information and sensory inputs daily. If this accumulates, our mental capacity quickly enters overdrive.
To avoid this, our brains routinely “clean house” and discard information no longer required.
In fact, research shows that humans forget 50% of new information within an hour. Within a week, it jumps to 90%.
In regards to safety training, these figures are not comforting. We want employees conducting tasks correctly and remembering when to wear PPE.
Moreover, it is disheartening to learn how quickly our wonderfully inspiring meeting promoting safety in the workplace will fade from the memory of our audience.
Promote Safety in the Workplace
So, how do we keep the message of safety on employees’ minds?
Answer: we do the same thing companies selling products do – we advertise.
The Coca-Cola Company sells lines of soft drinks renowned worldwide. We all recognize the brand well, yet their current advertising budget is huge - almost hitting US $4 billion each year.
Since hitting the ground running in the 1920s, the Coca-Cola Company has become one of the word's largest beverage companies, with 500 drinks brands operating in 200 countries. In other words, advertising works!
All advertising strategies have one main intent: selling products and building brand reach.
With this in mind, we can promote safety for a similar effect. However, unlike the Coca-Cola company, this won’t cost us billions of dollars.
Some strategies need a greater investment, and others can be completed with minimal cost. Read on to find out our options.
You’ll often see safety signs, banners and slogans in most manufacturing and construction sites. They are important and valuable communication tools promoting safety messages.
Moreover, they must be used in conjunction with a personal approach, as you will see in the following examples.
Think about it: the accounting team meet to discuss their monthly budget to avoid monetary mishaps. Start every meeting with a brief safety share, even if it is a safety meeting!
A safety share only lasts a few minutes and can be about any topic. It can be work related, or about something that happened at home or during the morning commute.
The content isn’t too crucial. It's promoting safety in the workplace that's important!
Generally, shift meetings are held before work begins. The frequency is determined by its requirement – either daily or weekly. Regardless, the point is establishing a set routine to discuss safety concerns, keeping safety in front of employees.
Firstly, and most importantly, safety signs are only used when risks cannot be controlled or avoided any other way. Nonetheless, since the introduction of safety signs in 1992, workplace fatal injuries have decreased by 50%.
When placing safety signs in the workplace, it's crucial that they're are correctly placed, and understood by everyone, from site visitors to full-time employees. For the latter, cover safety signs meanings in depth at safety training, which leads me very nicely onto our next method ...
Learning Management Software Systems
Use online and self-paced training to re-enforce and advertise safety. Assigning employees an interactive computer based safety course they can undertake at their schedule effectively keeps the safety message current.
Peer to Peer Observation
Another great option is peer to peer behavior observation programme. This programme can be carried out in various ways, but the common theme is employees observing their peers undertaking a task. After completion, there is a conversation on which behaviors were safe or not.
These behavior observation programs can provide multiple opportunities daily for peer employees to converse about promoting safety.
Visible Felt Leadership
A very effective method to advertise safety is with visible felt leadership (VFL). However, this one requires strategy because the basis for visible felt leadership involves routine interaction of facility management and shop floor employees.
Facility management working time into their busy schedules to spend out on the shop floor or work area can be a challenge. With a VFL program, managers spend time with employees in a group setting attending shift meetings, or more importantly, with one on one interactions.
Do not underestimate the safety advertising benefit of this activity. Management spending a few minutes on the shop floor listening to and discussing safety concerns is very valuable indeed.
We have explored just a few examples to advertise and promote safety in the workplace. By investing in a strategy routinely and consistently pushing safety messages, we move closer to our goal of every employee going home safe and well.
Further reading: 9 signs you're an EHS manager in 2019 »