Safety Hazards at Work: How to Encourage Worker Reports
Staying on top of all the safety hazards at work can feel like an impossible challenge. Circumstances are always changing, equipment wears out, new workers join the crew—it’s never-ending. There is help available, though, and it’s right under your nose: get workers involved.
The Benefits of Getting Workers Involved in Reporting Safety Hazards at Work
First, let’s focus on why you should encourage your workforce to report safety hazards. What are the benefits of involving workers?
You can’t be everywhere at once, and you don’t have the same point of view as your workers. Employees have front row seats to where things are going, or could go, wrong. They’ll catch hazards that you can’t, which is invaluable. They are a unique safety resource waiting to be tapped.
Enlisting help is a way to empower your workers. It demonstrates that you recognize that their input is valuable and that their contributions can make positive change in the workplace environment. Empowered workers are happier, more productive, and more loyal.
Participation is a way for employees to invest in their own well-being, which is critical to a strong safety culture. This also builds camaraderie because if workers are watching out for hazards it helps them and their colleagues, which strengthens bonding and teamwork.
Coach Workers on Spotting Safety Hazards in the Workplace
Workers should always have an eye out for safety and alert management and co-workers to potentially harmful situations. But they may not know what to look for.
Teach employees the most common health and safety hazards at work. There are five primary workplace hazard categories identified by OSHA:
- Safety—examples: frayed electrical wires, slippery surfaces, obstructed walkways
- Chemical—examples: acids, flammable liquids, carbon monoxide
- Biological—examples: blood, viruses, mold
- Physical—example: extreme temperatures, excessive noise
- Ergonomic—examples: repetitive awkward movements, strained posture
There are two additional categories that require equal attention but sometimes get overlooked in the safety landscape: mental wellness and harassment. For example, circumstances that can impact mental wellness include the death of a loved one, divorce, excessive stress, or lack of sleep. Some people may have a known diagnosis such as an anxiety disorder, depression, or bipolar disorder.
Signs that indicate someone may be experiencing work-related stress or poor mental health include: frequent absences, a disheveled appearance, poor hygiene, and pronounced mood swings or emotional outbursts.
Harassment involves any type of demeaning or intimidating actions that threaten someone’s well-being. Harassment includes—but is absolutely not limited to—bullying, unwanted sexual advances or attention, and racial discrimination.
Being aware of these general categories is a good place to start. Then you and your workforce need to get specific because the hazards in every work environment are unique. One way to get workers more attuned to spotting hazards is to walk the space together as a group and ask people to point out which potential hazards they see.
In this short video, a safety inspector discusses what she looks for when she’s assessing safety in the workplace:
You can also discuss hazard awareness vigilance in safety moments. This is a perfect time to address the more nuanced safety issues of harassment and mental wellness.
Raising awareness about safety hazards in the workplace is a critical aspect of injury and disaster prevention. The more sets of trained and vigilant eyes you have in your workspace, the better your safety maintenance and injury prevention will be.
How to Report Safety Hazards at Work: Provide Workers With Many Avenues
To get workers into the habit of staying alert to and reporting hazards, you must develop a clear and easy way for them to communicate hazard information to you.
Just as no two people learn in the same way, no two people communicate in the same way, especially these days. Some people are more likely to use text, while others prefer email. Some favor in-person exchanges or group settings, and others respond well to phone interactions. There are even people who still like to use paper and pen.
Cover all your bases: provide multiple avenues for people to use to report hazards in the workplace. All hazard reports should be logged in a central location like a log book or spreadsheet. This is for you to manage.
Make sure it lists the hazard, who reported it (if available), the date, and how the company resolved the issue. Allow workers to report hazards anonymously if they wish. Keep your workforce apprised of the status of reported hazards. This lets them know you’re listening and taking action.
Remind staff on a regular basis that you welcome their hazard reports and review the different ways they can submit those to you. Remind them how valuable their input is.
Acknowledge the Effort for Lasting Engagement
To help ensure ongoing staff participation in your workplace safety culture, acknowledge workers’ efforts and how those contributed to your safe workplace. It may be easy to overlook safe work because in a safe workplace, nothing happens—nothing injurious, that is.
When you get the entire staff involved in spotting and informing you about safety hazards at work, you turn an overwhelming task into a team success that benefits everyone.