A successful health and safety program can’t be achieved without some collaborative effort between workers and employers. No matter how effective safety measures may seem on paper, employers are still going to need the cooperation and buy-in of workers to accomplish desired results. But how can you promote and increase worker participation in the development, implementation, evaluation, and improvement of safety programs in the construction industry? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends five action items to help you get started:
Step 1: Encourage workers to participate in the safety program.
Show that you value workers’ input to the decision-making process by encouraging active participation in the program. Provide construction personnel with appropriate time and resources to help them contribute to the process. Recognize employees who have participated through positive reinforcement. Implement an open door policy and listen to safety suggestions from the workforce.
Step 2: Encourage workers to report safety and health hazards or concerns.
Frontline employees are exposed to work hazards every day—making them a valuable source of first-hand information regarding occupational risks, unsafe practices, and areas of improvement. Encourage workers to report safety concerns so that employers can immediately address the issue before things get out of hand.
What can employers and safety managers do?
- Establish a simple and reasonable process for reporting accidents, injuries, close calls, and emerging work hazards.
- Inform workers regarding the actions that were taken to address their concerns or suggestions.
- Stress that the management will use reports to improve the current safety and health practices on the job site. More importantly, ensure that there will be no retaliation against employees who have reported safety issues.
- Enable employees to temporarily suspend or request a shutdown of work activities that they deem unsafe.
- Involve workers when solving safety issues.
Step 3: Share and give access to health and safety information.
Sharing crucial health and safety information not only promotes trust, but also helps the workforce to make more informed decisions. Make sure that workers have all the information they need to fully understand and control health or safety hazards on the construction site. Depending on applicable regulatory standards, employers may be required to provide specific kinds of information—including safety data sheets, injury and illness data, inspection results, chemical safety recommendations, and emergency procedures.
Step 4: Involve workers in all facets of the health and safety program.
Getting input from employees is not just about having a wider perspective on existing work hazards. When employees have a sense of ownership in the process, they are more likely to understand what their roles are and how to carry out the program in the long run. So make sure that workers are involved in setting safety goals, identifying risks, reporting issues, investigating incidents, and even tracking progress.
Step 5: Eliminate potential barriers to worker participation.
Always take language, educational attainment, and skill levels into consideration. This will help to make workers from all levels of the organization feel that their voice counts and their input is appreciated. Never discriminate against employees for reporting safety issues and always ensure that their concerns are properly addressed. Keep workers on the same page by providing construction safety training programs and conducting meetings regularly.