Engaging employees in National Safety Month

Engaging employees in National Safety Month in June promotes a “we’re in this together” mentality. (Photo via USACE, Flickr)

Marc Flanders, principal at consulting firm WC Solutions Group, sees a common mistake in workplace safety engagement.
The mistake is in how incentives are targeted, Flanders tells EHS Today. Companies may think they’re checking off all the right boxes by incentivizing safety, then reward the wrong employees.
“I see some companies put all their budget into the people who are safe for a year,” Flanders says. “I tell them, ‘Wait a minute. You’re spending all your money on the people who are safe. What are you doing to change the behavior of people who aren’t safe?'”
Successful safety incentives programs need to have an “everybody wins” mentality. After all, a workplace isn’t really safe until everybody is safe.
That’s why safety incentive programs “should involve everyone in the safety process, starting with top management, going to supervisors, to the employees and to the individuals managing the incentives program,” Flanders says.
June is National Safety Month. What better time to evaluate and promote your safety program? Engaging employees in National Safety Month is a great way to ensure your program is inclusive and reaching the right employees.

5 Essentials for Engaging Employees in Safety

When Marathon Petroleum bought an oil refinery from BP in 2013, it was as if they were buying “the world’s most expensive haunted house,” as Forbes put it.
The refinery had a history of serious workplace safety catastrophes, the result of what federal investigators described as a “broken safety culture.” Marathon was determined to turn that culture around.
The problems of the old safety culture were quickly apparent, according to Forbes staffer Christopher Helman. Managers had a “check the box” mentality that put paperwork ahead of actual safety. Workers perceived managers as “too worried about seat belts” and not worried enough about outright disaster.
Marathon focused on bringing its own safety culture into the refinery. The company started prioritizing maintenance and empowering employees to call out unsafe conditions with a personal responsibility training.
The success of Marathon’s safety culture was a subject of the Gallup analysis, “Engaged Workplaces Are Safer for Employees.” Here are tips based on the analysis:
1. Have a strong company mission. A clear, purpose-driven mission “makes employees feel their job is important. … Employees who are aligned with the company’s mission are also more likely to approach their work with thoughtfulness and attention to detail, which contributes to a culture of safety.”
2. Recognize employees for quality work. “When employees are dedicated to quality, they go the extra mile to do things right the first time.”
3. Listen to employees. Everyone wins when employees feel that their opinions count. Listen to workers who are closest to the action — “these individuals offer a front-line perspective on organizational problems and often are well-versed in preventing and overcoming them.”
4. Be responsive to concerns. It isn’t enough to just listen. “When leaders act on the information they receive, it demonstrates to employees that their opinions matter — and it can help companies avoid preventable safety incidents.”
And, to reiterate …
5. Incentivize Everyone to be Safe. According to EHS Today, about 80 percent of employees will work safely most of the time, regardless of incentives, and the other 20 percent need an incentive to work safely. That’s why a “one size fits all” rewarding system won’t work. Still, your goals should be inclusive — employee rewards need to incentivize all employees to be safe all the time.

What’s New for National Safety Month 2023?

engaging employees in National Safety Month

The National Safety Council has Safety Month resources for home, work and on the road. Discuss on social media with hashtag #KeepEachOtherSafe.

Observed annually in June, National Safety Month focuses on reducing leading causes of injury and death at work, on the road and in homes and communities.
Each week of National Safety Month has a theme. For 2023, the themes are preventing falls, getting more sleep, preparing for an active shooter and improving ergonomics (“Don’t just sit there!”).
The National Safety Council has a wealth of resources for engaging employees in National Safety Month, including posters, ready-to-go social media updates and tip sheets in English and Spanish.
A free webinar on June 22 will explain “the scope of the preventable deaths epidemic” with a look at the latest trends, research and statistics.
Safe+Sound Week, June 12-18, is another chance to promote workplace safety and engage employees in National Safety Month. Led by OSHA and supported by the National Safety Council, Safe+Sound Week “is meant to raise awareness and understanding of the value of safety and health programs that include management leadership, worker participation and a systematic approach to finding and fixing hazards in workplaces.”
Wishing you a safe (and fun!) month of June. Let’s #KeepEachOtherSafe!

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