Last month as part of our education series, we looked at improving health and safety culture from the very top. For this to be effective within any organisation, there also needs to be a strong base of employee health and safety knowledge.
Currently, only four out of ten workers are strongly engaged with health and safety, however, by building knowledge and confidence among staff, you can successfully drive a deeper level of engagement that becomes circular in its impact. When people know what the risks are, how to identify them, and how to deal with them, it provides the opportunity to grow and improve.
In this blog, we’ll look at some of the key ways you can start building knowledge among your staff in the short and long term.
Inductions are not only about making sure you are putting your best foot forward in introducing new people to your teams, but also ensuring everyone is on the same page from the start. By having effective and impactful worker and contractor inductions, a strong, initial foundation is formed for health and safety knowledge to be built upon.
Depending on the organisation and the role that an employee or contractor is going to perform, inductions can present themselves in several ways. It may be as simple as providing a survey or checklist that covers all the bases of an induction or having a sit down between a manager and an employee.
Here are some of the key topics that should be covered in an induction schedule:
- Health and Safety legislation
- Organisational health and safety policies
- Gaining familiarity with the workplace and its risks
- Knowledge of operations
- PPE – what you need, where and why
- How to report health and safety information
- Preparing for an emergency
- Accessing the health and safety system
- The health and safety culture of the organisation (i.e. behavioural expectations)
As mentioned, these topics will differ from one organisation to another, with a strictly office environment posing different requirements to a factory floor. Of course, depending on the organisation, more topics can be added to an induction to cover any specifics and ensure a strong induction into the workplace.
Presence on agendas
One of the key ways to ensure continual knowledge growth and strong health and safety capability among workers and contractors is to talk about it every day or at least on a regular basis. This could be at your WIP meetings, at your morning check-ins or during daily debriefs. Even if it doesn’t seem like there will be any actions, it’s key to make sure everyone is feeling safe while working.
Health and safety as a worker agenda item can include several topics:
- Incident check-ins, such as whether there have been any near misses, injuries or illnesses.
- Health and safety compliance, such as making sure all risk register controls are in place and if there have been any compliance issues.
- Emerging risks that staff have noticed.
- Does everyone have everything they need to stay safe?
- Who has been doing an excellent job of ensuring that everyone stays safe?
- Well-being aspects for the team on the job that day – is everyone OK to work?
- General discussion.
By talking about these topics on a regular basis, it ensures two things. Firstly, issues can be nipped in the bud before someone is injured or worse. Secondly, regular discussions build culture. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is culture.
To ensure culture is built with purpose and accountability, a key part of health and safety in agendas is the ability to record and implement changes. Within the agenda item, this can include actions such as discussing collected health and safety data and what it means, and outside of the meeting, engaging with stakeholders to implement changes. Once changes occur, these should be communicated back to the whole team, so everyone is on board.
Proactive risk & hazard knowledge
Risks, like many other things, are just probabilities and possibilities, varying in both consequence and in likelihood of occurrence. Some risks will forever be likely such as power cuts or something breaking spontaneously. Others will be far more unlikely, such as natural disasters. By thinking about the “what ifs” in the workplace and in different scenarios, it provides the opportunity for greater safety as well as learning opportunities around what hazard identification and risk management might include.
For hazard/risk identification and reporting to happen with ease, removing barriers within your health and safety system is key. There are several ways to make identification and reporting simpler, with tools such as the Safe365 mobile app which provides a simple but informative template for hazards/risks or like setting up an email specifically for workers to report workplace risks. All of these can make the process of hazard/risk reporting less about admin, and more about keeping everyone safe in an effective manner, enabling teams to take charge of their own health and safety practice.
Mace Landscape Group, a landscaping firm based in New Zealand, have used the Safe365 platform to help improve their ability to report hazards to management and engage with health and safety in an impactful way. They’ve found that with the use of Safe365, they’ve been able to more effectively implement control measures and make their staff feel valued in the process.
Ongoing professional development
Professional development for workers is a key path to improving health and safety knowledge and creating a stronger health and safety culture. Depending on the organisation and the workplace risks, the type of professional development will differ. Some of the ways professional development can occur are:
- Annual awareness training, either in person or online.
- Basic medical training, such as first aid or pre-hospital emergency care.
- Completing scenarios.
- Certified health and safety courses.
- Sharing smaller pieces of health and safety knowledge during meetings, email, newsletters etc.
Like any skill, one-off education isn’t going to cut it. By covering health and safety on an annual recurring basis, it allows for consistent and thorough refreshers on workplace practices and policy, health and safety legislation and ways to improve the workplace.
Depending on your organisation, some steps will make more sense than others. The key thing to take away from this all is the importance of continuous improvement.
When health and safety becomes part of every day, week, month and year, the benefits for everyone are seen.
If you’re struggling to understand where else you can improve health and safety beyond worker knowledge, consider taking the Safe365 Health and Safety Maturity Assessment and get your Safety Index Score to understand what areas of health and safety practice you can focus on.