When managing workplace health and safety, it can be quite easy to take a reactive, rather than proactive approach, particularly in a very busy organisation where work activities can sometimes seem overwhelming.
You might find that workers only come to you with problems after they happen, and then assume, once they’ve told you about it, it is now your problem to fix.
So how can you shift this mentality and create a workplace that identifies and fixes issues before incidents occur?
We look at five ways you can promote a culture that works to improve health and safety standards in your organisation.
1) Talk about safety
Improvements are best made when everyone in your workplace is invested in them. At every practical opportunity, discuss how daily work tasks and processes are likely to affect health and safety.
Encourage an open dialogue in relation to your safe operating procedures. Often, we don’t even consider whether there is a better way to do something or ask our workers whether a task is always being done correctly. Consulting with the people carrying out the work on a daily basis is the best way to determine how to reduce the risks.
Some of the safest and most practical solutions are put forward when safety issues are discussed while the activity is being carried out or reviewed.
If you need a reminder to talk about safety issues, then schedule 5–10 minutes into every team meeting. Come to the meeting with some questions or topics to discuss, rather than asking open-ended questions such as, “Has anyone got any safety issues?”.
A specific question regarding a work activity or area will help to open up a dialogue with your workers. Encourage everyone to get involved and work together to come up with some practical, efficient and workable solutions.
Provide an avenue for your workers to respectfully question what has been included in your written policies and procedures. Remember, it’s better if your workers question how you do things so that you can continue to improve both your safety and your efficiency.
2) Conduct workplace inspections
Use workplace inspections to determine what could potentially cause harm. If any issues are identified, act on them.
Remember, inspections are not just about ticking boxes; their purpose is to help you discover where you can improve on safety in your workplace.
When conducting inspections, consider:
- focusing on a different work area or activity each time you conduct an inspection;
- questioning the way you do things – just because it’s always been done a certain way, it doesn’t mean it’s the best or safest way;
- being forward-thinking and moving with the times – don’t expect everything to stay the same; and
- keeping in mind there’s always a better way you can approach an activity, task or process.
3) Plan for safety
Schedule a meeting with key managers and workers to establish a couple of clear safety objectives for your team. Remember, without a plan in place it’s difficult to implement actions or solutions.
If you are used to simply reacting all the time rather than planning, it may take a change in thinking and perspective to focus on some key safety goals.
And remember, just because you have a plan, it doesn’t mean you have no flexibility. If your plan doesn’t turn out to be as efficient or effective as expected, re-evaluate where you want to go and put a new plan in place.
4) Think laterally
You often need to look outside the traditional avenues to come up with effective solutions to safety issues.
If you find that your workers aren’t committed to following the safety processes you have in place, find out why this is and come up with an innovative way to remedy the issue.
Encourage innovation and creativity in your teams, and seek advice from your colleagues about new ways you can improve workplace safety.
5) Learn from mistakes
Mistakes may be made. If you experiment with safety initiatives and they fail, consider why this happened so you can improve next time. Grasp learning opportunities and refocus on the outcomes you want to achieve.