My name is Stacy Hamilton and I’ve been working in the health and safety space for many years. During that time, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t when it comes to engaging and empowering people to find and follow their own safety journeys.
Where do I start?
Site visits to meet the teams is critical for me to get to know the people actually doing the work where hazards and incidents may occur.
One of the first things I’m often asked by people is “Why aren’t people reporting hazards? We can’t fix anything if we don’t know what’s going on.” That’s true and that’s what I tell everyone I work with as well. As much as a crystal ball would be helpful sometimes, it’s highly impractical and, quite frankly, very heavy to carry around.
For me to get a good understanding of what’s happening, I need to get onto the “shop floor”. Reviewing paperwork and processes will give me an idea of what’s happening, but the magic happens when I get to talk to the people involved in the work. After we’ve had our initial chat about your concerns, this is when I will ask to walk through the workplace.
I want to meet your teams and see how your front-line workers react to a “fresh face”. I introduce myself and am often bombarded with people telling me about hazards they’ve seen or experienced on site. The only thing your teams know about me is that I am a new person, and I seem to be actively listening. I take out my notebook and write it all down with names and times and areas. These conversations tend to end with: “I reported it to so-and-so and nothing ever happened/no one got back to me.
I come back to the office to have a chat and show the list of items I’ve been given. I am often met with surprise and then the realisation that they have in fact forgotten to action the items. This is, unfortunately, the norm rather the exception. It is definitely not a criticism though. We are all well-intentioned when we say to our teams “If there’s ever anything I can do to help, just let me know” and the busyness of the day can soon allow some of these items to slip off of our radar.
Take heart, this can be fixed relatively easily – let’s look at some practical ways
Next time you walk out onto the “shop floor” ask the question “How’s it all going?” Hopefully, they’ll open up, but if not, follow it up with this one “What’s one thing that we could do to improve the safety of your work area?”
By asking your workers for feedback on how to best improve their workplace, they are more likely to embrace the proposed changes because they’ve been directly involved in identifying them.
Now that you’ve been a suggestion, you must do something with it AND come back and give the team feedback on the progress being made. Not every suggestion can be actioned, but there are ways to meet in the middle to achieve a win-win for all. It costs nothing to provide feedback but the results can be immeasurable.
5 simple steps you can do straight away
Go back to your safety meeting minutes and have a look at the outstanding action items.
I often see ONGOING as the timeframe for completion. This, my friends, is where actions go to die. You never have to complete something because there isn’t a date attached to it.
Assign each outstanding action a date to be completed by. If the risk is high, give yourself a shorter period of time. If the final solution is going to take longer, then make sure you have an interim solution ready.
Assign each outstanding action to a responsible person, not a department.
Track actions and hold people accountable for not completing the actions on time with a credible reason.
Go out and tell the work area that is affected what’s being done regularly so that they know their suggestions and issues have not gone into the abyss.
If they can’t trust you to fix the small items of concern, they aren’t going to trust you with the important things you really need to know about that could bite later down the track.
Remember, it’s one thing to identify the issues from your workforce, but the gold is found in how you respond and provide feedback on what’s being done to address it.
I’m someone who sort of fell into safety 15 years ago, not really knowing that it was a “real job or career” and I haven’t looked back. I get to combine my love of people and my love of science together and get the best of both worlds, in my opinion. I’m a proud Canadian and Australian and often refer to myself as a CanAussie.
I’ve worked in many different industries including telecommunications, warehousing and logistics, FMCG, local government and manufacturing to name a few. It doesn’t matter the industry, the issues that are presented to me are similar:
How do I get my employees to follow the rules?
How do I build/improve my business’ safety culture?
Why won’t anyone report hazards?
I need a safety manual for x reason
Through the articles I share, I hope to be able to answer these questions for you and many more.
I build safety systems for companies that people want to use (no, really!) and deliver training that people don’t forget when they walk out of the room.
My latest endeavour, which is launching early 2018, is bringing together young and new workers, their parents, their front-line supervisors and the business owners to work out the mystical, magical methods of the importance of personal safety at work and how that can apply to life. It’s the why that goes along with the what and the how (any Simon Sinek fans out there?).
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