September 3, 2020

How you Onboard your Employees will Affect how they see Safety

Do you remember your first safety induction?  How about your most recent?  Any of the ones in between?  To be honest, I don’t really either.  Why do you think that is?  Probably because they weren’t memorable enough and they all refer to the same basic things.
Most organisational inductions cover the following general information:
  • safety is our number one priority;
  • safety is everyone’s responsibility; and
  • here’s what you do if you get injured.
If you also receive a site or department induction, this is where you may get more information about specific hazards and risks within your work area.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not down on inductions and onboarding. In fact, when done right, they can dramatically increase your retention rate and individual and team productivity.  But when done wrong, you can lose good people, which can cost you a lot more time, money, and effort.
While safety is just a part of the overall onboarding process, if the only things that are being highlighted are that safety is number one and fill out this form when you get injured, what message are you sending to your teams?
While it’s noble to say that safety is your number one priority, when the rubber meets the road and deadlines are looming, this is not always the case.  You are running a business and while safety must be a top priority; productivity, efficiency, and profit must also be factored in. All four of these can work well together and can provide a very successful outcome for the business and the individual team members but it takes work.
Why is the very next message in the induction process “Here is what you do if you get injured.”  Hang on a minute, you’ve just told me that safety is your number one priority, so should I even need to be worrying about getting injured?  Do you see where the messaging can get confused?
So, the above is what NOT to do, how can we turn it around?  I’m glad you asked.
1. Be honest
People are not naïve. They understand this is a business. Give them examples of the innovations and initiatives you’ve taken to minimise risks to people.  If it’s one of your top values, share the others, and explain how they are all intertwined.
2. Make people feel part of the bigger picture
Now more than ever, people are looking for connection, a place to belong, some would even say their tribe.
Tell them how their actions or inactions can directly impact their health and safety and those around them. As they are fresh eyes to the organisation, ask for their feedback on how risks are managed as they are out in the workplace.  Their feedback is invaluable, and they may see something that others have walked by for years.  Tell them how safety fits in with the company values and ethos and give real-life examples.
3. Make it real for them
I’m not talking about showing gory photos or threatening them with the possibility of jail time or big fines. Safety isn’t about compliance, it’s about people.  Share stories that they can relate to.  Ask them if it was their son, daughter, partner, brother, sister, parent, starting out in the workplace, what key information would you want to ensure they were told?
4. Make it relevant
If you’re a forklift operator or a tradie, focus on the hazards and risks they might face in their actual workplace. Don’t talk to them about how to properly set up their desks so they don’t get sore shoulders.  Talk to them about the traffic flow in the yard at different times and what kinds of processes are already in place to minimise risks.
The most important thing to remember in any onboarding, safety or otherwise, is that we are engaging with people not ticking the box for compliance.

Make it real, make it relevant, and make it memorable.



About the Feature Author:

Stacy Hamilton, Founder of Find It, Fix It, Own 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. 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.

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