EHS Today recently created a photo gallery titled “Top 10 Worker Complaints About Your Safety Program.” With more than a dozen slides, the gallery accurately and amusingly captures the negative sentiments we hear every day in this industry: safety is hard; it’s too much work; it’s not fun.
In this article, we’ll highlight some of the complaints from the photo gallery—and share some of our own additions—and discuss how you can deal with them at your workplace.
COMPLAINT 1: “WHY DO WE HAVE TO GET TRAINED ON STUFF WE ALREADY KNOW?”
Training is a critical part—perhaps the most critical part—of any workplace safety program. The trouble with training is that it’s time-consuming, boring, and often repetitive. Workers may feel particularly resistant to training if they haven’t had any safety-related incidents on the job.
To help combat this complaint, emphasize the importance of training. Preventing workplace accidents is about more than just knowing how to perform a job safely; it’s about keeping safety top of mind at all times. Ongoing training—even when it’s not new information—helps keep safety in focus.
COMPLAINT 2: “RULES CHANGE ALL THE TIME; IT’S TOO HARD TO KEEP UP.”
Let’s be honest; there’s some validity to this complaint. Rules and regulations change continuously, and keeping up with the latest standards can be an overwhelming task.
Try putting one person in charge of knowing what’s changing in the world of safety compliance and also communicating those changes to everyone else in the workplace. That communication could be a monthly email recap, a five-minute synopsis at a quarterly meeting, or an easy-to-digest one-sheeter. When you make this responsibility a core part of someone’s job, everyone will be more informed when it comes to safety.
COMPLAINT 3: “PPE MAKES MY JOB MORE DIFFICULT, NOT EASIER.”
Personal protective equipment (PPE) includes helmets, goggles, gloves, and more designed to protect workers from on-the-job injuries such as burns, cuts, and lacerations, as well as contact with harmful substances, like chemicals, biohazards, and airborne debris.
Often PPE is viewed as bulky and cumbersome, which is why workers complain that it actually makes their jobs more difficult. In some cases, this complaint can be assuaged by simply investing in modern PPE that’s developed for comfort in addition to safety.
For example, cut-resistant gloves made with ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE)—like those made by Dyneema®—are cool, comfortable, and lightweight while offering level 5 cut protection. By working with leading PPE manufacturers and investing in comfort-first PPE, you can find safety protection that your workforce won’t resist putting on each day.
COMPLAINT 4: “SUPERVISORS AREN’T FOLLOWING THE RULES; WHY SHOULD I?”
Let’s hope this isn’t a complaint you’re hearing around your company. Because when it comes to safety, study after study reveals that building a foundation of a safety culture is a necessary component for success.
Safety should always start from the top. It should be emphasized regularly by the CEO. It should be practiced at the management and supervisor levels. When your leadership follows safety standards and procedures, and the effect will undoubtedly trickle down.
COMPLAINT 5: “THIS ISN’T ABOUT SAFETY; IT’S JUST ABOUT COMPLIANCE.”
Safety is about compliance—at least to some extent. No one wants to get citations or fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for failing to comply with regulations. But safety should also be about protecting your workers—above and beyond whatever your industry or business is required to do.
If you’re hearing this complaint, it may be that your safety program is too heavily focused on compliance over safety. Or perhaps you’re not highlighting everything you’re doing in addition to what’s required. It’s these extra efforts that will show your employees you care about more than just keeping OSHA at bay.
COMPLAINT 6: “WHY SHOULD WE FIX WHAT ISN’T BROKEN?”
So everything’s going great at your company. You’ve racked up plenty of incident-free hours, and you have no history of run-ins with OSHA. That’s great! But it can make it difficult to implement new safety policies or procedures. It’s awesome when what you’re already doing is working, but that certainly doesn’t mean a system can’t be improved upon.
You didn’t get where you are today without dedication and effort, so celebrate your safety success. By acknowledging and rewarding good safety behavior, workers will more willingly take on additional safety responsibilities.
COMPLAINT 7: “NO ONE CARED ABOUT SAFETY UNTIL SOMETHING WENT WRONG.”
Sometimes it feels as if no one cares about safety until after an incident occurs. And in some cases, that may be true. But safety programs should be preventive, not reactive.
As a safety leader, it’s your job to anticipate hazards and help keep accidents from ever occurring in the first place. When a workplace injury does occur, be sure to emphasize why it happened, what safety measures were in place to try and prevent it from happening, and what’s going to be done differently going forward to avoid future injuries.
COMPLAINT 8: “THIS IS JUST THE NEWEST SAFETY FAD.”
As with any industry, fads in safety will come and go. Some of the recent trends we’re seeing include using mobile apps as safety tools, an emphasis on employee comfort in PPE, and a focus on establishing a company-wide safety culture.
So what should you say to workers when you try and implement the next hot thing in safety? Just admit it. Sometimes it’s worth giving the new tools, technologies, and trends a shot. If something doesn’t work, you can always drop it. But if it does work, you’re preventing injuries, stopping accidents, and even saving lives.
COMPLAINT 9: “FOLLOWING SAFETY PROCEDURES TAKES TOO LONG.”
This is by far the most common complaint related to workplace safety. We all want to be efficient at our jobs, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of our own safety—or the safety of others.
Make sure you’re not demanding so much of workers that they feel they don’t have time to perform tasks safely. If following all procedures is taking too long, look at other ways to streamline tasks and maximize efficiency without compromising safety. And of course, don’t penalize those who operate at a slower pace because they’re following safety procedures and doing the work the right way.
It’s easy to complain about safety compliance. Creating a safe work environment in hazard-ridden industries takes time, effort, and financial investment. But the payoff far outweighs the cost. When it comes to safety complaints, it’s most important to keep your workers focused on what matters most: preventing workplace accidents and injuries so they can go home safely at the end of each day.