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Engage your Workforce to Develop Workplace Safety Solutions

- August 22, 2016 by Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM (View all posts by Leslie)

Anyone who has been in a “safety” role knows that safety is not a one person job.  You need to enlist the help of many—it takes a village, or a Team. Who at your company is holding onto the best safety idea ever?  It could be one of your production line employees, it could be the front desk receptionist, maybe it’s the temp employee who just came from your competitor, or your new accountant.  Regardless of employment level, innovative, impactful and (most importantly) implementable ideas can be hiding in the minds’ of any Team Member. So how can you access them? Let’s talk about a few ways that I’ve seen work for different customers.

Of course, the simplest way to go about getting safety ideas is to ask, but most people will not provide any feedback when using that method.  So here are a few others creative options.

1. Create a contest
Did you know that the U.S. government has a website called challenge.gov?   Even the United States Government gets stumped and asks the public for ideas. Take their lead and create a challenge contest.  A challenge contest can be a specific call for employees to submit ideas on improving a specific safety issue.  For example, ask for ideas on how to improve forklift and pedestrian safety, or ways to minimize lifting at the widget packaging station.  Or, a challenge can be physical, such as a department competition to improve housekeeping and organization.

2. Create a special team
Safety committees in some companies get a bad reputation for being the place to go to complain. If you have trouble stimulating your safety committee to take action, try creating a new team.  Give this new team the “honor” of brainstorming solutions for existing improvement opportunities.

3. Be friendly
Supervisors that have friendly conversations with employees are more likely to receive beneficial safety feedback. Encourage your supervisors and upper management to walk and talk the production floor or jobsite. Once your employees have a comfort level, they will be more likely to give you their ideas.

4. Dump the suggestion box
Unless this is still a proven winner in your facility, it’s time to retire that suggestion box.  Verbal communication is much more likely to get you the results you want.

5. Get your clip board out
What if you took a walk around your facility or jobsite with a clip board, but instead of a safety deficiency checklist, you only took notes on the good things and talked to people about their safety ideas.  A focus on the positive will create a proactive safety culture.

6. Pick the brains of the new hires
Most new employees do not walk into your door with zero work experience.  What did they do at their last company that can help you?  As part of orientation, take them on a tour of the facility, encourage them to ask questions and talk with you.  Check in with them after a week and ask them if they can think of any ways to improve their job.

Getting your employees to share their ideas takes trust, and gaining trust takes time.  If you decide to try any of the above ideas, commit to trying one for at least 6 months. You may not get any feedback at first, but as long as you don’t give up, the ideas will start flowing.