Safetip #106: Recognize the Signs of Employee Disengagement

November 29, 2017
By Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

This week’s Safetip is about strengthening a safety culture by recognizing the signs of employee disengagement.

Employee Engagement is Key to Safety

Leading organizations aim to reduce the number of workplace injuries and illnesses by eliminating hazards or mitigating risks of incidents. This is achieved by improving safety performance through a comprehensive occupational safety and health program that includes a focus on risk assessment. But even the best occupational safety and health program can fail if there is no underlying safety culture to support and sustain it. Safety culture is key to safety performance, and employee engagement is key to a safety culture because ultimately safety is about people, and people must participate in a program to ensure its success.

Because employee engagement is key, organizations should be proactive by learning to recognize signs of employee disengagement, in order to address issues early on and prevent them from impacting safety performance later.

What Are the Signs of Disengaged Workers?

A few years ago, Megan Raines, CSP, from the American Red Cross, gave a presentation on engaging employees in safety. The presentation was based in part on her article “Engaging employees: another step in improving safety”. In the presentation, Raines provided the following signs that you should look for to identify cases of employee disengagement:

  • Employees don’t report minor injuries or hazards.
  • Low participation in safety committees and other safety-related meetings.
  • Lack of respect for the safety program.
  • Employees feeling that management is not serious about the safety program.
  • Employees regularly break safety rules if they think they won’t get caught.
  • Safety professionals are viewed as “cops”.

If safety performance is not improving despite OSHA compliance, leadership commitment, and training, then there is a strong possibility that there is a lack of worker participation.

Raines also provided internal justifications for disengagement. By familiarizing yourself with them, you can better prepare counter-arguments and steps required to encourage employee engagement. Here are the internal justifications:

  • “Nobody asks me for my opinion.”
  • “This safety policy makes my job harder.”
  • “Management is just waiting to catch me violating a safety rule.”
  • “I’ve been saying we need to make this change for years; it’s finally changing because of an accident.”
  • “Management violates the safety rules but wants us to follow them.”
  • “I reported a safety concern two months ago; nobody did anything about it.”
  • “Management just cares about productivity; they want us to work faster even if it is unsafe.”
  • “I’ve been working this way for 30 years and have never been hurt; I don’t see the importance of safety.”

Visit Enablon Insights again next Wednesday for a new Safetip!

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