Silence is Deadly: Tips for Safety Talks
The Majority of Workers Don’t Speak Up When They See a Hazard
Silence may be golden in some cases, but not when it comes to workplace safety. Workers need to speak up. Conversations between supervisors and employees about safety should happen frequently, but research cited by OSHA in its new Better Safety Conversations pamphlet shows that’s not always the case. Ninety-three percent of employees said their work group is currently at risk from a safety issue that’s not being discussed.
It’s crucial that workers feel safe sharing their opinions and expressing their worries about certain tasks. Promoting a culture of openness and accountability goes a long way in creating a safe workplace.
Bringing up safety in a way that will ensure workers listen and don’t feel attacked is easier said than done. When you notice an employee participating in potentially unsafe behavior, consider using one of these three starting phrases:
- “I’d like to talk to you about something important. Let’s review the safest way to do this task, so you and your team are not at risk of getting hurt.”
- “I respect your experience and want to make sure nobody is injured, so I’d like to work with you to address this issue.“
- “Can we talk about what I’m seeing and figure out a better way to do it?”
Walking the Talk
Another way to improve safety conversations is telling short, compelling stories to reinforce the message you want to get across. Stories don’t have to be longwinded and may in fact work better when limited to 20 or 30 seconds. Most importantly, supervisors need to lead by example. Paying lip service to safety doesn’t work if they’re also not wearing PPE or not following safety procedures – so make sure they’re not just talking a good game but also staying safe.