Health and Safety is More Effective When Workers are Involved
A common mistake in many organisations involves managers and directors deciding upon all aspects of health and safety within the business without any consultation with employees whatsoever. This usually comes about as a combination of management knowing that they have legal responsibilities for the health and safety of their employees, and the fact that they are so used to giving instructions with little or no discussion with workers.
Health and safety issues however are slightly different in that as the whole topic has the objective of keeping workers safe and free from harm whilst conducting their workplace duties, it will therefore be necessary for them to be consulted. Workers who spend all of their time on the shop floor where the majority of dangers exist will have a much greater understanding of the possible health risks and potential for accidents than managers who rarely venture down from a nice, comfortable office.
An argument which some managers put forward is that consulting with all of the workers will take a lot of time and will likely result in meetings with lots of conflicting and contrasting points of view. Large meetings may descend into shouting matches where little if anything meaningful actually comes out of it. When there are lots of people needing guidance and instruction, sometimes it is better for management just to make the decision and inform workers what they expect to happen.
A much better idea though is for middle managers, supervisors and team leaders to conduct smaller-scale safety meetings just with those teams for which they are directly responsible for, and then convey the findings up the chain of command. These meetings with different sections of the workplace can all happen at the same time, and enables senior managers and directors to hear all of the most pressing concerns by receiving them from the middle managers in a much more organised manner than trying to listen to everybody in one gigantic meeting. Also if the same points are being made in each of the different meetings, management will know that it is a particular area of concern which needs attention.
This approach is frequently put to good use by large companies, with safety representatives elected to be the bridge between workers and managers when it comes to matters related to health and safety. Workers in these companies often have increased morale if they feel that management actually listens to their suggestions and that concerns are taken seriously. Just having safety representatives for workers to talk to will not be enough though; it will need to be backed up by positive action by management which increases safety levels within the businesses such as the timely rectification of issues which arise, e.g. the replacement of personal protective equipment (ppe) which is starting to get past its best.
Communication can also work the other way. When management decide to provide health and safety training courses like the NEBOSH General Certificate to workers many will wonder why they need to receive such training. Communicating this information down through middle managers and supervisors can convey this message, rather than just issuing a command from the top without explanation.