Leadership is looked upon as the outside influence that shapes corporate culture. Management should provide leadership that encourages workers within an organization to participate in the programs offered by the company, in this case, the safety and health program. The elements of a safety and health program can be broken into the following components:
A clear worksite safety and health policy allows employees to understand the importance of safety and health protection in relation to other organizational values such as quality and efficiency. Safety and health need to be corporate objectives, similar to sales and profits. Reducing compensation costs does have an immediate and extensive effect on the bottom line.
Policy statements signed by top management show that endorsement of the policy is from the top. A concern shown by top management for safety makes it easier for supervisors to carry out and enforce company policy, for the company to promote safe and healthful work practices, for employees to observe the stated policy, to purchase equipment that has been designed with safety features, and to maintain and repair equipment according to good engineering control and safety practices.
Goals and Objectives
You make your general safety and health policy specific by establishing a clear goal and objectives. These set the framework for assigning responsibility. Once a policy is developed, management should set a goal for safety and health, and then build objectives that will allow employees to reach the goal. The goal should be a realistic one, so as not to discourage employees from striving for the goal.
Once the goal is established, you can now set objectives and assign responsibilities. Set objectives based on performance measures and get others involved in establishing the objectives. Each employee should be able to see his or her work activities moving toward the goal, thus allowing them to meet the objectives.
Everyone should have some responsibility for safety and health in the workplace. It should be clearly understood by all employees what their responsibilities are in the workplace, and what discipline will be forthcoming if failure to carry out these responsibilities should occur. The employer should try to base responsibility on the goal and set objectives. This way everyone knows what the goal is, and will try to meet the objectives that were set. Put responsibilities in writing and specify responsible parties. Giving people responsibility and accountability for their actions instills a sense of pride, which will carry over in terms of wanting to have a good performance record.
Commitment and Leadership
If it is perceived by employees that management fully supports and abides by the safety and health program, they are more likely to emphasize safety and health in their own work habits. Employees follow management's lead.
Get employees involved. Decide what employee involvement means to you (i.e. asking for input before management decisions are made; or sharing the decision-making responsibility; or allowing employees to make decisions) and communicate this to employees.
The best worker safety and health protection occurs where everyone at the worksite shares responsibility for protection. This does not take the responsibility of the safety and health of the worker from the employer.
Management should encourage employees to have real input into the total safety program for a variety of reasons: employees often know best; it promotes high morale; and it indicates that the management cares. Employees should be encouraged to make suggestions that will decrease the danger of accidents to themselves and their fellow employees and reduce risks o f damage to equipment and materials. Involving employees in developing their workplace safety and health program is a good way to obtain buy-in for the program.
Authority and Resources
Any realistic assignment of responsibility must be accompanied by needed authority and resources. When an employee is given the responsibility to do something, the resources and authority to complete the task should be accompanying. As employees within the organization grow, they will take on more responsibility if they feel management is backing them. The employer should provide all the tools necessary for the employee to be successful at his or her task. As an example, safety equipment, meetings and related expenses should be budgeted because safety and health programs must be reflected as a legitimate function of the company. Providing employees adequate authority and resources makes them problem solvers, not problem givers.
Once you have assigned responsibility and provided the appropriate authority and resources, hold people accountable for achieving what they have been asked to do. Accountability for one's actions must accompany the responsibility given and the authority and resources provided. Holding employees accountable helps them see how important they are to the total process within the company.
Once the safety and health program is in place and all components are functioning, management needs to check on it from time to time to ensure its effectiveness. Some key indices of safety and health performance are property damage; frequency rates, lost time injuries; high turnover or absenteeism; employee's perception of management's interest and involvement; and insurance claims. If the program is not working, the employer should decide why and try to resolve it. Some areas of the program may need more work; some procedures may need to be changed or added where current activities are not producing the desired results. A successful safety and health program will provide a sense of pride among employees, making them feel like they are accomplishing something.
Source: Onsite Safety & Health Consultation Program, Industrial Services Division, Illinois Department of Commerce & Community Affairs
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