Although American homeowners maintain a strong focus on safety at home, they may not feel comfortable reporting safety violations at their jobs. Recent studies surveyed thousands of American workers and found that about 50% of us do not want to stand out at work. We may see hazardous conditions but feel uncomfortable telling our supervisors. More than 4,500 people are killed while working every year, and only about 20% of those people worked in construction. While American workers report that they are concerned about their companies’ recycling and conservation programs, they also report that they wish they could speak more freely with their onsite EHS employees.
EHS workers take care of Environmental Health and Safety functions for their jobsite. They monitor safety conditions in hazardous working environments and may monitor inspection software and employee safety training. Studies show that about 70% of all employees surveyed did not know who talk to at their company about health and safety. If you have a dedicated onsite safety employee, make sure that employees know when they can go in and have a confidential conversation. Often, offering employees the option to remain anonymous can have a positive effect on overall health and safety metrics.
We’ve all heard people say that a task is “above their pay grade.” What they mean is that they feel that they don’t get paid enough to take on extra work: informing supervisors about safety issues should be routine and not something that they dislike doing, but it can take some re-training to connect with your employees. Anonymity does help, and offering financial incentives for employees who improve the workplace helps as well. People want to feel that their suggestions are being taken seriously, and many small businesses ask their employees for their input on a regular basis. Every manager has their own manager, and there is pressure to perform under pressure every day. Employees who are financially rewarded to contributing to the success of the business will be more willing to continue to make suggestions about health and safety issues.
In the past few years, American industrial testing has gotten simpler: new, non-invasive testing makes it easier to spot flaws in products before they go to market. Manufacturers make use of new inspection software and are often able to avoid massive recalls. Inspection software makes use of the same technology that hospitals use to scan their patients’ bodies and brains: a complex product testing protocol can now be accomplished in seconds instead of hours. The resolution on new product testing scans is higher than ever, and inspection software is being used in every state across the country to accelerate product development.
Despite awesome advances in technology, environmental health and safety management continues to depend upon people’s eyes and ears. You may feel that your safety protocols are adequate, but your workers may be taking shortcuts that circumvent your established safety parameters. Workers may be required to wear safety equipment, but they may find that the equipment makes it difficult for them to do their jobs. Should they allow themselves to be hindered by bulky safety equipment or should they forego the equipment entirely between inspections? The solution may require finding more workable safety equipment, or it may require enforcing existing environmental regulatory compliance.
At base, any new employee safety program must be actionable: employees must follow written and verbal protocols for their safety and for their co-workers’ safety. Giving people strict rules may be necessary in hazardous working environments, and although you may maintain an EHS department, employees may still be reluctant to report safety violations. Making safety reports anonymous can help people feel safe to bring concerns to the people who can do something about them: nothing sinks a business more quickly than widespread employee cynicism. Make room for improvements, keep working toward risk management solutions, and keep in mind that for some people, taking problems to the boss is the last thing they’d ever want to do.