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How can I get employees more involved in the risk assessment plan?

Q:

How can I get employees more involved in the risk assessment plan?

A:

It is critically important that all companies have comprehensive risk assessment plans in place, as part of their comprehensive workplace safety programs. Although these plans are key for all companies, they are absolutely vital for companies operating in sectors where there are heightened risks to employees’ health and well-being. For example, a risk assessment plan may be more important for a metals and mining company with underground mines than it is for a clothing store in the local mall.

No matter what industry a company is operating in, however, there is a tendency for companies to put in place risk assessment plans that do not take into account the feedback and concerns of the employees. It is easy to lay the blame for this on indifferent management teams that are just ensuring they have a risk assessment plan in place to meet various requirements, but this over-simplifies the actual situation (learn how to get the whole team involved with Teamwork: Working Together Towards a Safer Tomorrow).

Yes, frequently management teams do a poor job of soliciting feedback. On the other hand, employees are often reluctant to step forward and participate in developing a best practice risk assessment plan. This leaves the nagging question: How can a company generate more organic involvement from all stakeholders in the process?

There are three steps that any company should take:

  1. The company needs to work to develop a level of trust and support with its stakeholders, in this case, primarily employees. Employees need to believe that the company is genuinely interested in building a safer and healthier workplace for them. Therefore, the risk assessment plan cannot be presented as a one-off initiative — instead, it has to be part of an ongoing comprehensive and well-developed workplace safety program (get your employees involved with Simple and Easy Employee Engagement Ideas for Improving OHS).
  2. Despite legal protections offered to whistleblowers and others who raise concerns about health and safety issues, many employees are naturally reluctant to speak up and offer input on these issues — particularly in a face-to-face setting. Therefore, it is essential to set up multiple channels that employees can offer feedback through. These channels may include, but not be limited to: suggestion boxes in the workers’ cafeteria, an anonymous telephone hotline, or an email address that accepts suggestions.
  3. Finally, many workers are crunched for time between the responsibilities of their job and home life. Therefore, they are naturally reluctant to take on more responsibility to participate on committees or in listening sessions. Thus, companies must clearly communicate to workers that if they participate in these projects, they will be compensated for the time spent. More workers are going to be willing to step up if they do not see this as an entirely volunteer position.

Ideally, these steps — along with other plans specifically geared to a company’s unique corporate culture — will generate a significantly greater degree of employee participation in the risk assessment plan.

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Written by Terry Creason
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Terry is the National Sales Manager for Wise Safety & Environment.   Full Bio