Health and safety is important for everyone, whether it be from a worker perspective or that of a business aiming to keep the workforce safe, and stay on the right side of the law. All parties are stakeholders where safety is concerned. The engagement of business owners, managers and workers leads to better understanding of the risks in an operation and the development of solutions to remove or minimise risks.
Employers have to consult employees on health and safety matters either directly or through appointed or elected representatives. Whilst there are laws governing consultation, there are also tangible benefits. For employers, the main benefits of engagement are to do with getting help to identify the main issues and finding the right solutions. It is also very much about building a motivated workforce. For workers the key benefits of engagement with management are the identification of risks and the goal of not being harmed when carrying out work.
How to engage your employees
Tackling safety issues benefits everyone. For effective employee engagement, there should be a framework of interaction to identify issues, on-going monitoring of performance and a regular review with the workforce and employee representatives. Engagement with the workforce is a powerful way to tackle common workplace issues.
There are a number of factors to consider when planning engagement with your workforce. In terms of the structure of the business, you will need to assess the management style, the culture of the business and any trade union involvement. The whole point about engagement is its inclusivity, and it would be fruitless to embark on an engagement initiative without considering the prevailing cultural conditions in the business.
In terms of the workplace, you should consider the size of workplace and the type of work carried out there in order to organise the engagement process in the best way. Also consider the seriousness of the risks, as this will determine the approach to be taken.
Thinking about the makeup of the workforce is important too. Do you have a culturally diverse team? If so, it may be necessary to produce materials in different languages. It makes sense to include everyone in the engagement process and this means including your agency staff and contract workers. Do you operate a shift system? If you do, then don’t forget the night shift!
An example from the HSE website: A high-risk workplace with a large unionised workforce spread over multiple sites may have trade union representatives from different sites as members of a site-based health and safety committee that meets regularly, and feeds into a corporate health and safety committee. A non-unionised smaller workplace located on one small, low-risk site, is more likely to consult directly with employees on a day-to-day basis.
Case studies and best practice in employee engagement
Case studies are very useful in showing how engagement can work in practice. The examples and videos on the HSE’s site show how organisations have successfully involved their workforce in managing health and safety. They demonstrate that businesses with good worker involvement achieve better performance in health and safety, which in turn increases productivity and reduces costs. The HSE case studies on consulting and involving workers provide excellent examples of:
- Shared experiences
- Examples of successful worker involvement
- Examples of worker involvement contributing to the business benefits of effective health and safety
- Worker Engagement initiatives in construction
- Working with Trade Unions
Consulting and involving workers is important, and underpins the health and safety culture of a business. The workers and their representatives know the shop-floor processes better than anyone and it makes sense to consult and engage with the workforce on the likely risks in their work and precautions they should take. The more consideration is shown by management to the health and safety needs of the workforce, the more likely that real employee engagement will follow.
Start with the HSE’s page Consulting and involving your workers
EU-OSHA’s Healthy Workplaces Campaign 2012-2013 focuses on the twin concepts of management leadership and worker participation.
PPE.ORG is a media partner of EU-OSHA.
Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0