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Frontline Supervisor: Safety in the Workplace

Frontline Supervisor: Safety in the Workplace

On 30 Jul 2015, in Management, employee development, Workplace, safety

Each month, "The Balance Sheet" provides questions and answers from experts on a topic that's important to you as a manager. Please feel free to share this information with other colleagues who also manage people.

Q. My employee does not use his safety equipment. I have asked him many times to comply with our safety and OSHA standards, but to no avail. Maybe he doesn’t care if he is fired or injured. Can BJC EAP help?

A. True, your employee may not care if he is fired for failure to comply with safety rules. But there could be other explanations, including problems with memory, training issues, communication or cultural barriers, or even a personality style that causes him to act out anger in a passive-aggressive way by refusing to use safety equipment. Could his failure to comply with safety rules be related to inconsistent use of rewards for and enforcement of those rules? This is a common reason for poor compliance. It takes a long time to build up a culture of safety in a company, but only a minute to undo it. BJC EAP can help.

Q. I am a stickler for safety in the workplace, but without preaching constantly to employees about it, they seem to lose respect for practicing safe behaviors. Is there more to a supervisor's role?

A. A safe work environment is best won by inspiring a desire to be safe and helping employees see that everyone benefits from safe work practices. It's important to remind employees to practice safety, and studies show that education and awareness are key. However, supervisors often underestimate their influence in shaping safe employee behaviors. Be sure to praise your employees when you see safety practiced. Manage troubled employees, seek to intervene in coworker conflicts and learn the role you have in improving and maintaining morale. These endeavors contribute to happy, healthy, productive employees, and fewer accidents result. Encourage peer influence to reinforce safe work practices and confront those that are unsafe. Model safe work practices, never glamorize risk taking and orient new employees to safe work practices early on. Beyond "preaching," these routines will support a culture of safety that pays off.

Q. Many employees are concerned about the economy, but it is not practical to recommend every one of them to BJC EAP. My concern is the risk of accidents or injury from distractions and stress. Are these valid concerns?

A. Some evidence exists that during economic downturns, the impact of stress, job reassignments and layoffs can result in injuries and accidents. Remind employees to keep in mind that safety is always important, probably more so during these periods. Of course, there is a lot more to helping employees think about safety. During stressful periods, don’t counsel employees, but rather be a good listener, show empathy and be willing to refer them to BJC EAP. Using patience and recognizing their stress is not a solution, but it will demonstrate welcomed support. Most businesses periodically face morale and internal conflicts that can make it difficult for employees to feel excited, cooperate or “buy in” to what management wants them to do. During economic downturns, however, these struggles are exacerbated, and safety programs can falter under such circumstances. Accidents and injuries can follow.

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