Why is No One Listening to the Safety Speaker and his Messages?
I often stress the importance of Negotiation Skills in my Safety Motivational keynote addresses. Why? Because emphasizing safety to transportation, manufacturing, food processing or refinery personnel is a continuous negotiation.
Organizations understand the need for safety training, but to many employees it is just another boring meeting where they have to force themselves to stay awake. They walk into those meetings complacent, and they leave the same way. Why is this happening?
Start with People
Negotiation, whether in the area of safety training or any other aspect of operations, requires human interaction. As a former factory worker myself, I understand that those on the “factory floor” can be viewed as robotic. Studies show what should have been obvious all along: the stresses and problems that confront those in “production” are the same that affect those in the executive offices.
Safety + Health (June 26, 2016), in an article entitled “Stress & Worker Safety,” reported on findings by the Center for Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace. The study listed several factors manifesting themselves under the general heading of stress. These factors include trouble concentrating, fatigue, low morale, alcohol or drug abuse, anxiety or irritability, workplace bullying and workplace violence.
For example, if workers are forced into periods of mandatory overtime where they come to work fatigued, don’t necessarily expect that safety training will capture their undivided attention. If the company is experiencing low morale due to recent layoffs or other issues and employees are berated for not caring enough about safety, don’t expect a buy-in about a new safety program.
People need to be engaged
One major finding reported in EHS Today (August 16, 2017), the magazine for leaders in the health and environmental field, is the importance of engagement.
When production workers are disengaged from safety in general, the results can be painfully dramatic. Disengaged workers have 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents and products or services that have 60% more errors and defects. Imagine for a second fatigued, disengaged workers at a trucking company or rail transportation organization and apply the same statistics to their performance. In a word, injuries, possibly severe.
According to the article, worker engagement in the safety process includes setting clear guidelines, instilling a sense of ownership, involving workers (not just managers) in the safety program, recognizing employees, gaining feedback and providing ongoing training. Unless employees feel as though they are valued, they see lesser value in safety messaging.
Finding the sweet spot
It comes down to finding the safety negotiation sweet spot, which is the process of getting workers and managers to effectively give, receive and effectively share training.
If employees are not listening to safety messages from the Safety Speaker, paying attention to safety training or disregarding posters and other safety aides, the organization must consider that something is wrong and find a satisfactory solution.
Valued workers feel valued. Safety training should make them feel more valued, not less. Negotiation will assure the best outcome.