Not every employee or manager is ready and willing to follow company policies and procedures. Some may not want to learn new processes or maybe they believe their way of doing it is better than the mandated procedures.
When it comes to safety, this attitude can be dangerous—and even deadly. It’s essential that all employees are on the same page and follow your company’s safety procedures. Any one person’s lack of safety follow-through can affect other employees, your facility, your customers and your community.
Joe Durham, EMC Risk Improvement Manager, believes the majority of employees understand the need for safety rules and regulations. “But there are always a few team members who question those rules or just ignore them. It’s your responsibility to explain the reasons for the rules and develop ways to increase employee buy-in,” he says.
Tried-And-True Tips for Selling Safety to Employees
Joe offers a few methods for selling safety to your employees:
Keep Employees in the Know
Discuss any new safety project or procedure as early in the process as you can. Let employees learn details from the ground up.
Explain Why Safety is Important
Understand where they are coming from especially if they are long-term employees who find change difficult. Phrase all directives in a positive light, emphasizing the reasons why the new procedure will help everyone.
Encourage Questions About Safety Procedures
Urge employees to question what they don’t understand. When Joe visits companies he often hears, “Why are we doing this?” When employees don’t understand the “why” behind the process, you see more resistance.
Emphasize the Common Good
Make following the rules a goal for the common good. Joe believes this is the key to employee buy-in. Using phrases such as “No one deserves to come to work and get hurt,” and “How would you feel if your actions caused another person to be injured?” often helps naysayers understand that their actions impact others as well as themselves. “It’s difficult for anyone to disagree with a process when it’s clear it keeps the team safe,” Joe explains.
Include Employees in the Process
Invite team members who are resistant to change to be a part of the process. Get them involved the development by asking for their advice and listening to their suggestions. “Everyone wants to be heard. Even if you can’t always follow their suggestions, having a dialogue with them will move employees toward doing the right thing,” Joe says. If you are not able to implement a suggestion, have a follow-up discussion on why the idea isn’t feasible. If you do implement a suggestion, give credit where credit is due.
Give Employees Ownership of a Portion of a Project
For example, one company Joe works with asks senior drivers to sit in on interviews with potential hires. This gives the drivers input on who becomes a part of the team while letting them know their opinion is important. Having those same senior drivers help train new hires on safety procedures is another key step to employee ownership of the program.
Be Willing to Make Changes
Listening to comments and suggestions is just one aspect of the journey. You need to be willing to “walk the walk” and make changes when applicable. It’s possible that one of your least compliant employees could come up with a idea that works better than current safety measures.
The more employees feel valued and free to openly discuss procedures with management, the better your safety culture will be. “You may find that it’s the employees who are ‘selling’ new safety ideas to you,” Joe says.