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Published: April, 2011; Vol 7, Num 11

 

Ten Questions about Safety Culture on Your Jobsite

1. Do workers feel comfortable raising safety issues with their supervisor? If they are afraid of getting fired or disciplined for raising concerns, someone is eventually going to get hurt by an uncorrected hazard.

2.Do workers from one trade feel comfortable approaching someone from another trade if they see them in an unsafe situation? No one likes to be questioned by someone else, especially someone from another trade. The response is usually, “Who are you to tell me how to do my job safely?” In a positive work environment, workers welcome anyone offering advice to help prevent injuries.

3. Do workers have the right to refuse unsafe work and do they feel they can exercise it? The safest workplaces are ones where management trusts the workers enough to grant the explicit right to refuse unsafe work. When so entrusted, this right is rarely abused. Giving workers this right shows them that safe work is more important than production.

4. Are workers encouraged to report incidents and close calls? Improving safety performance requires learning from close calls that occur. If they are ignored or dismissed, we can’t prevent a similar incident that could very easily be tragic. Are workers encouraged to report incidents and close calls?

5. Does the company have an incentive program that discourages incident reporting? Everyone loves incentives, but such programs can discourage workers from reporting incidents. No one wants to be blamed for losing an incentive. Incentive programs must be carefully crafted so that they do not discourage incident reports from which valuable information to improve your program can be gathered.

6. Are reports of unsafe conditions addressed promptly? If reported unsafe conditions are never corrected or not corrected promptly, workers get a powerful message that their safety is not valued. If hazards are corrected promptly, workers feel encouraged to report them in the future.

7. Do employees have the time to do the work safely, or do they feel pressured to take shortcuts to get the job done? Every job is under pressure to get completed on time and under budget. Under such pressure, supervisors and workers may look for shortcuts. Instead, pressures should be handled with better planning, including planning sufficient time for safety. If time isn’t sufficient, additional resources may be needed to make sure safety isn’t sacrificed.

8. Do supervisors talk about safety at every meeting and walk around the site to identify problems? Supervisors need to walk the walk and talk the talk. If safety isn’t on their radar, integrated at all meetings and discussed on every walk-around, it is hard to convince workers that safety is important to them. They must lead by example.

9. Are supervisors good listeners? Employee participation is vital to the success of any safety program. Supervisors need to be good listeners, take employee suggestions for improvements and not brush them off. Workers often have the best suggestions since they know the work and know where the problems are.

10. Are the needs and tendencies of younger, older and immigrant workers distinguished and addressed? Younger workers are particularly vulnerable to injuries since they are often reluctant to say anything for fear of appearing unsure or incapable; they need to be mentored and encouraged by older workers. Older workers sometimes develop overconfidence in their safety awareness; they may need additional training or license to take more time to work more safely. Immigrant workers are also more vulnerable; they need bi-lingual mentors and training on safety rights and responsibilities.