A safety observer program is critical in getting widespread employee involvement to reduce injuries. Company managers can start their own, or follow OSHA’s “VPP,” the Voluntary Protection Program.
For any program to succeed, employees have to know how to report, feel comfortable reporting, and not be punished for reporting. They should also be notified of safety changes and improvements.
Incoming data must be accurately tracked to chart continuous improvement. In a new program, managers should be aware of a spike in hazard reporting due to the addition of more observers.
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Dan Clark: Can workers be safety watchdogs? Yes! Your workplace will be a safer place if you start a system for reporting safety hazards.
Hello, I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief. This is where we talk about health and safety hazards in today’s demanding industrial and construction worksites.
Don’t rely solely on safety people for safety inspections. If so, Joe Worker tends to shift that ownership to the safety team. But the employees need to speak out when they spy a hazard. More eyes looking will reduce or prevent injuries.
You can start a safety observer program on your own or follow OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program, the VPP. Starting out, identify what is ineffective about your current reporting system, then plan the new one, get upper management approval and train the employees.
These are the five keys to a good system:
1. Employees must understand what they’re being asked to do. In training, give examples of the kinds of things you would like them to report. Tell them what specific information must be reported—important details like when and where the problem occurs; who or what machinery is involved.
2. Employees must feel comfortable bringing up safety issues. Allow anonymous reporting, such as a safety suggestion box. Offer more than one reporting option, such as email or written on paper.
3. Put mechanisms in place to track all reported issues. This way, you can see if the hazards get resolved over time.
4. Notify workers of safety improvements or changes made. This allows them to see the program in action, and to take ownership of something perhaps they, themselves, reported.
5. Employees reporting hazards should not be punished. If workers see others getting in trouble for working unsafely, they likely won’t report issues in the future. Instead, instruct workers on procedures and move on.
Those are your five main points. Initially, be concerned about accuracy. Under-reporting of safety issues is common at work. Managers often want to hit specific safety target numbers, so employees avoid reporting problems so those numbers can be reached. And that can lead to accidents and injuries.
Warning! When you start a campaign to make the reporting of safety hazards more accurate, it means the numbers will look bad for a while because more people are participating, Once the program is underway, assess its effectiveness. Ask for employee feedback and correct the mistakes for continuous improvement. Employees must feel the company values their input.
That’s all for this episode. Come back for more tips and techniques on how to stay safety compliant in today’s ever-changing landscape of safety requirements. I am Dan Clark and this is The Safety Brief, sponsored by Creative Safety Supply. See the website at creativesafetysupply.com
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