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Empowering Your Employees: A Crucial Workplace Safety Resource

Jim Schumann

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November 19, 2018

With news of dangerous workplace encounters occurring with increasing frequency, the need for greater emphasis on safety becomes more pressing. While security plans are necessary, they cannot stand alone. To maximize their efforts, employers need to go a step further than security planning and engage an often-untapped resource: their employees. When employees become stakeholders in their workplace environment, safety programs flourish. Providing workplace safety awareness training, along with the right tools and information, enables your employees to become more proactive and promote safety within your organization. Often, this shift in mindset requires modifying your company's culture, technology, and training methods.

Modify Your Company's Culture 

Lowering the difficulty and stigma that surrounds reporting suspicious behavior at an institution is a crucial first step toward engaging your workforce as a safety resource. Begin by understanding the social and cultural constructs that dictate how people feel about raising their voices about concerns and how these apply to your employees.

The diffusion of responsibility is a psychological occurrence that happens when people in a group—such as your employee base—witness something they know is dangerous or wrong, but convince themselves that someone else in the larger group will attend to it. These individuals aren't neglectful; rather, it's the construct of the group that enables people to deflect the full responsibility associated with reporting.

People often feel it isn't their place to say something or worry that getting involved could become burdensome or even detrimental. If it becomes public knowledge within your organization that a certain person has reported the activity of a fellow employee, the possibility for public opinion and blame arises, even when anti-retaliation policies are in place. In some cases, when that information is leaked, it can even become dangerous for the person who submitted the report.

In some workplace environments, there are other reasons incidents of workplace violence are grossly underreported. In healthcare settings, for example, medical staff have been assaulted (verbally and otherwise) on the job for so long, they feel it is simply part of their job. In fact, studies conducted by the Joint Commission, OSHA, the American Nurses Association, and others show that not only are staff too busy to report but they perceive the abuse as an expected—albeit unpleasant—aspect of their profession.

To combat these closed-mouth cultures, educate your employees on the value they bring to safety initiatives. Let them know that your organization appreciates reporting and expects safety to be a priority. Create an open environment that encourages people to use their voices and bring concerns to the attention of HR or the security team when needed. To foster this environment, demonstrate an ongoing commitment by prioritizing safety training and sending out regular safety newsletters that highlight common workplace issues and signs of dangerous behavior. Cultivating a more open culture will provide your employees with greater space to feel empowered and trusted.

Update Technology

Part of creating an open culture that proves leadership's commitment to safety is providing employees with the right tools and technology that enable them to keep one another safe. Anonymous reporting, for example, can help alleviate social or societal pressures which typically inhibit people from reporting incidents or suspicious activity. The veil of anonymity encourages employees to report concerns by eliminating the opportunity for scrutiny, public opinion, or repercussions. Anonymous reporting via mobile app ensures that, when they need to, your employees can quickly and easily report incidents or dangerous situations directly to your security department, enabling a more rapid response.

Likewise, make sure your employees can readily access safety and security information they might need. Often, people aren't fully aware of the resources available to them and therefore don't take advantage of services which could be beneficial to their health and that of the people around them.

Implementing the right tools and technology enables your organization to be more proactive in ensuring a safer workplace. Without technology that empowers your employees to take ownership of their safety, your organization will be left spending more time and effort retroactively analyzing reports to determine what could have been done differently.

Technology with advanced reporting capabilities enables your organization to be proactive behind the scenes as well. Using data to identify trends can help your organization identify gaps and implement changes to help prevent future incidents.

Engage Through Workplace Safety Awareness Training

Making a commitment to employee training is also an important step in reforming culture. A true commitment requires you to invest in a comprehensive training program that not only engages employees, but also provides them with the information, skills, and tools to better identify suspicious or problematic behaviors.

Making this commitment may require spending more time and budget than you have previously. However, technology can also help you train more effectively. As your organization grows it can become difficult to reach everyone and ensure they've absorbed safety training information. Consider an online platform that provides employees with 24/7 access to training modules and includes learning assessments to help you document retention of concepts and completion of training.

Employees are empowered when they feel like their voice is heard and their input matters. Encourage an open culture within your organization—and enable greater accountability—by providing a method for anonymous reporting, utilizing advanced reporting and analytics, and incorporating intuitive training options that empower your employees and create a safer workplace.

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