How do you overcome resistance to change when it comes to new safety rules, procedures, and initiatives?
You can almost always count on opposition to any change in the workplace. This can be particularly challenging in regards to new safety practices. Employees may be reluctant and make comments like “We have always done it this way” (for tips on overcoming resistance, see 7 Superb Psychological Tactics for EHS Training).
New safety rules or procedures need to be well explained. And it should be made clear that safety rules and procedures are never optional (see Safety and the Broken Windows Theory to find out why consistently enforcing all rules matters). It's important for businesses to create a work culture that values safety (learn more about Implementing a Safety Culture). The higher safety ranks as a company value, the easier it will be for employees to accept changes in regards to improving safety.
It’s always a good idea to give notice of upcoming changes in work practices or conditions as soon as possible. Everyone changes gears at a different pace and some handle changes better than others. A grace period gives all of your employees a chance to get used to the change.
It’s not uncommon for us to experience something like the stages of grief when dealing with change. I myself have seen many employees go through anger, denial, negotiating, and finally acceptance. Managers, supervisors and others in leadership roles need to understand help employees navigate these stages.
Take the time to listen to employees and hear their concerns. They must understand what is required from them. Just like wearing a seat belt in a car, employees must understand safety rules are not negotiable (see this Safety Moment on Seat Belts for quick tips on seat belt safety). We show we value them and their well-being by improving safety.Change management at work is something that employers need to give attention to as a company skill. It may be the greatest asset any company can have in today’s fast paced world. Leading with safety can help set the stage for learning to adapt as needed. When we lead people with a safety-first mindset, we show our team members that we value them first and foremost as well.