In the workplace, safety concerns — any condition or violation with significant risk of causing physical harm or property damage, from tripping hazards to gas leaks — are ever-present. An effective risk management process can help reduce the risks, and according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure a safe workplace for all workers.
And just as it’s an employer’s responsibility to address safety concerns, it’s also an employee’s right to report safety shortcomings to management and demand action. Encouraging a strong safety culture in the workplace and prioritizing issues based on urgency and frequency of occurrence will go a long way toward ensuring the health and safety of your employees or co-workers.
This article will discuss safety concerns from the perspectives of employees and employers, outlining how both can address concerns at their respective levels to create a safer workplace for all.
How Employees Can Effectively Report Safety Concerns
Speaking up about any safety hazards in the workplace is the first step in building an effective workplace safety program. Employees are often quiet about their ideas or observations on workplace health and safety, and this may hinder efforts in creating a safety culture. Here’s how employees can confidently report safety concerns and ensure action.
Research Before Complaining
When you see something that may be a safety hazard, don’t complain immediately unless it’s urgent or obvious. Do the research to support your concern, and have up-to-date regulations in writing from reliable sources like OSHA. For instance, if you feel that a piece of machinery is in need of maintenance and may be a safety issue if not addressed, check sources to ensure that your instinct is correct before complaining.
Follow the Chain of Command
Ideally, a healthy safety culture should already be an integral part of your work environment. Even so, no manager likes employees going over their head. The first person you report any safety issues to should be your immediate supervisor. If they give an unsatisfactory response, you may need to approach someone else with your safety concerns, such as a safety manager or director.
Seek Out Allies
If your supervisor does not respond well to your worries and you don’t have a safety manager to turn toward, there may be some difficulty finding the right person to address your safety concerns. In such a situation, you need to locate someone with influence in the organization who genuinely cares about safety (e.g., a general manager who emphasizes safety in meetings). If you can get such a person on your side, it will ultimately help address the hazard.
Be Proactive and Cooperative
When you speak up, remember that your boss, the safety manager, or anyone else you approach is likely to already have a time-consuming workload. Give your concerns some thought and try to come up with possible solutions first.
Additionally, make sure your attitude is one of cooperation and not an attack on the management. Going to your boss and aggressively pointing out what they’re doing wrong won’t win you any favor and may turn them against your cause, no matter how crucial the matter is. Word your feedback constructively, provide solid reasoning as to why the problem needs addressing, and make it clear that you’re willing to help fix the issue efficiently.
Know Your Rights
Finally, remember that it is your right as an employee to have safe working conditions. If your organization is not as concerned about safety as it should be, you also have a right to voice your concerns without fear of retaliation. If your employer doesn’t address your safety concern, you have the right to directly contact and file a complaint with OSHA.
Know that employers cannot retaliate against you voicing safety concerns in any way, including firing or transferring you, reducing your pay, or changing your working conditions to make you uncomfortable. If employers do so, they face steep fines and other legal liabilities from OSHA.
Addressing Safety Concerns as an Employer
As an employer, all of your workers are your responsibility; it’s your duty to ensure their health and safety. While it’s smart to have a process in place for addressing safety concerns that employees bring to your attention, you don’t have to wait for your employees to mention safety hazards and mitigate risks. Here’s how you can address safety concerns at your workplace proactively.
Carry Out Risk Assessments
To keep track of safety hazards in your workplace, you need to carry out regular risk assessments or safety inspections. Risk assessments involve inspecting the workplace and putting safety measures to eliminate or reduce any risks identified. These can be company-wide evaluations to pinpoint general risks or specific concerns such as a coronavirus risk assessment. Such procedures ensure that you have all of the information needed about safety issues as well as the controls in place to diminish risks.
Implement a Health and Safety Policy
A crucial step toward creating a safety culture in your workplace is instituting a health and safety policy. Such a policy should cover all of the health and safety procedures in the workplace, such as fire safety, first aid, machine maintenance, and specific site safety (e.g., supplying personal protective equipment or PPEs for all workers).
The policy should stress personal safety responsibility, cover reporting safety concerns, and include the details of anyone with specific health and safety duties like workers trained in first aid or fire wardens. This policy should also educate staff about relevant procedures in case of safety hazards, and make them aware of safety standards designed to prevent work injuries. Most importantly, the policy needs to remain accessible to all of your employees, on-site contractors, and other stakeholders.
Ensure Open Communication
Make sure you communicate regularly with your employees regarding matters related to health and safety. Regular meetings covering relevant safety topics keep safety top of mind for workers.
At the same time, employees need to feel comfortable approaching you about their safety concerns and ideas related to workplace safety. Make it clear to them that your doors are open and that you will listen to their concerns and ideas.
Provide Safety Training
Safety training is an important aspect of any workplace safety program. At least some employees must be trained in first aid, and everyone should know procedures related to fire safety, electrical safety, and more. Educate your employees through safety training sessions, including general training and site-specific education if needed.
Address Safety Concerns More Smoothly With Automation
From proactive managerial measures like risk assessments and safety training to addressing issues that employees notice, safety concerns can get complicated. There are multiple variables and stakeholders involved, such as safety experts, supervisors, safety managers, employees who report the hazards, and more.
Manually handling safety preparedness procedures can be time consuming and tedious. To streamline it all, consider automating at least some of your processes.
A digital, cloud-based solution such as Pulpstream provides a single platform where your employees report concerns, and you can upload and analyze investigation reports and risk assessments. It also allows you to upload policy documents and procedures, easily communicating updates and notices with employees about staying on top of safety.
Let Pulpstream help make your workplace safer. Book a free demo today.