• How to Engage Workers in Health and Safety

    30 December at 13:12 from atlas

    For a small country competing in the global economy, New Zealand's current levels of employee engagement pose a barrier to global competitiveness and economic success. Gallup's 2011-2012 data indicate that less than a quarter of New Zealanders who work for an employer (23%) are engaged at work, while 62% are "not engaged," meaning they head to work each day uninspired and lacking motivation, and will likely do just enough to fulfill their job requirements. And 15% are "actively disengaged" — they are not only unhappy at work, but likely to act out that unhappiness.

    Actively disengaged workers account for more quality defects and safety incidents, and have higher absenteeism and lower retention rates, than other employees; they are estimated to cost the New Zealand economy NZ$7.5 billion annually, based on the New Zealand Bureau of Statistics' average New Zealand wage figure.

    Employers that fail to foster employee engagement risk losing talented employees not only to other New Zealand based companies, but also to businesses in neighboring Australia. Research by Deloitte in 2012 found that 65% of New Zealand's organizations are concerned about losing employees to other employers in the country, while 36% report concerns about losing employees to Australia.

    Overcoming New Zealand's economic challenges will require a focus on productivity, process efficiency, product quality, and innovation. In order to improve outcomes in these areas, organizational leaders need to turn their attention to creating workplaces that unlock the full potential of all New Zealand workers — currently an underutilized commodity.

    One of the significant changes to the new Health and Safety at Work Act is around worker engagement and participation

    HSWA sets out the key legislative steps in the health and safety engagement process which are to:

    1. share information on matters relating to health and safety

    2. give workers time to consider the issues

    3. give workers a reasonable opportunity to

    a)  express their views and raise work health or safety concerns, and

    b)  contribute to the decision-making process

    4. take into account the views of workers, and

    5. advise workers of the outcomes in a timely way

    6. ensure that hazards are identified and assessed

    7. Make effective decisions about

    a)  addressing risks

    b)  providing adequate staff welfare facilities

    c)  monitoring worker health and work conditions

    d)  providing information and training to workers

    e)  procedures for resolving work health or safety issues,

    8. determining effective working groups

    9. proposing changes which may affect the health and safety of workers

    In addition, HSWA states that all businesses should have planned, well known ways to engage with workers and support their participation in health and safety matters. Things are likely to work better when they have a mix of formal and informal ways for workers to contribute.

    The guidance recommends an established way to support worker participation by electing Health and Safety Representatives or setting up a Health and Safety Committee but for the focus to be on the effectiveness rather than what systems you have in place.

    There are also many training courses which provide knowledge and tools to comply with legislative duties, but very few resources or guidance on the key attributes essential to become a safety rep and the communication techniques required to apply the new found knowledge.

    If you look at training courses provided for Health and Safety Reps the majority focus on hazard identification, risk assessment, accident investigation, control of hazardous substances, health monitoring, manual handling, electrical and fire safety etc.

    There appears to be very little training on active listening techniques and individual strengths and weaknesses for employees to be able to focus their efforts effectively. For workers to be able to support their co-workers and the business, they will require coaching on how to build on individual skill sets, articulate worker interests, satisfy their and the company core values and identify ways to apply their talents to achieve the organisations goals.

    For worker engagement and participation to be effective the business will need to coach individuals towards maximum contribution and satisfaction, align and constantly re-align individuals to the company strategy, mission and values, recognise attitude, effort and results and engage in effective dialogue about what's important to the individual and why?

    What is required is a holistic view that occurs on a daily basis where the work unfolds and gets done.

    The tool to achieve this must not be owned by the HR or Health and Safety Department, because when this happens, the rest of the organisation believes the issue will be resolved by them and it's no longer their problem. The procedure/tool has to be a shared responsibility developed in conjunction with the workers for everyone's benefit. And, because safety engagement is fundamentally an individual thing, broad brush initiatives such a annual safety culture survey's will accomplish nothing on their own.

    To consistently equip workers to talk about health and safety and become more engaged, businesses will need to focus not on action planning and discrete objectives, but on providing a framework that will help individuals define and meet their own unique definition of satisfaction. In doing so workers will be able to take ownership of their duties, navigate future opportunities and with help and commitment of their boss and co-workers discuss and negotiate more unforeseen risks

    So when starting up your Health and Safety Committee consider some of the following items before drafting your systems and procedures:

    Increase Collaboration:

    Executives and managers should work closely with their employees to identify barriers to engagement and opportunities to effect positive change. Employees provide valuable insights into a company's processes, systems, products, and customers — and these are essential to leaders when considering strategies to improve performance, foster business innovation, and create a more engaging workplace.

    Who has the attributes to become a great Safety Rep

    The catalyst for collaboration is a great communicator. The best communicators understand that their success, and that of their organisations, relies on active listening and having empathy no matter what people's wider views are. But not everyone can be an effective Safety Rep.  Good communicators seek to understand each person's strengths and provide workers every opportunity to use these in their roles. It takes talent to be a good safety rep, and leaders need to be sure they are using tools and advice that have proven reliable in selecting those with true, innate communication ability.

    Meet Your Employees Where They Are as People:

    Employees are people, and they don't check their personalities at the door when they come to work. The sense that they are respected as individuals at work can have a significant impact on how they view their overall lives. Each individual's potential extends well beyond his or her job description, but tapping that potential means recognizing how employees' unique set of beliefs, talents, goals, and life experiences drive their performance, personal success, and well-being.