Sunday, September 20, 2009

Employee Empowerment - The Key to Safety Success

by Matthew J. Key – Vice President - Safety - Knight & Carver Wind Group – San Diego, CA

In these times of companies downsizing, out sizing, re-engineering, doing more with less, and compliance to safety regulations, California Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (CalOSHA/FedOSHA) is requiring companies to have employee involvement and safety committees. Management needs empowered employees to be involved in the safety process.

Management is referred to as: Chief Executive Officers, directors, managers, supervisors, or individuals who have authority and can give authority. Support and commitment to the safety cause is very necessary from all levels of management.

Employees are very effective and motivated when they are empowered and will rally behind the cause of safety. Safety committees are ways that employees can be empowered to decrease incidents, accidents and injuries in the workplace.

Empowerment is defined as “freedom and authority given to employees to pursue their unique vision”. When this is provided to safety committees, strong commitment and support is evident.

The elements critical for safety committee success are: Trust, Communication, Commitment, Teamwork, Training, Awareness, Positive attitude, ownership and recognition. They can be explained as follows:

Trust from management involves demonstrating to the safety committee that they are empowered or have the authority to make decisions and get things done. The committee will not be a figurehead so to speak. Management support and commitment is the number one element crucial for the success of safety committees.

  • Communication is critical because everyone (management, safety committee, and employees) needs to be informed regarding safety issues and concerns.
  • Teamwork provides the foundation for success. The commonality exists when everyone involved works to have a safe environment. Contribution from each team member gives the uniqueness of different points views and ideas to get the job done successfully.
  • Training cannot be overlooked. Having accurate information through training to care for safety concerns provides the safety committee expertise, credibility, and consistency to deal effectively with safety concerns.
  • Awareness of safety concerns and how it will be cared for is essential. An awareness campaign can include safety posters, newsletters and safety magazines. When hazards can be identified and eliminated this will bring about a proactive safety program when it comes to reducing or eliminating incidents, accidents and injuries.
  • Positive Attitude is strength for a safety committee. Concentrating on what’s going right, what progress have been made, and what can be done to make it better, attaining goals will assist the safety committee to stay motivated.
  • Ownership is an important element because all employees including the safety committee need to feel part of the process as owners. Getting employees involved in sub-groups to care for safety concerns, or listening to their suggestions will go a long way for employee participation and involvement.
  • Recognition provides an awareness by all that the safety committee is recognized for a job well done. When management shows, in the way of something tangible, (certificates, lunches, dinners, gifts, etc.) this sends a message to the safety committee and employees that their efforts and actions are appreciated and motivate them to do more.

Yes, empowering employees by means of safety committees can have a very big impact in reducing and eliminating near misses, incidents, accidents, and injuries.

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