Reporting Safety Hazards at Work

Steps that will Help Improve Your Employees on Reporting Safety Hazards at Work

Those who are responsible for improving safety in the workplace often focus almost all their efforts on reducing hazards, or ensuring people have the tools and equipment needed to work safely. While these types of things are certainly essential, they aren’t going to be effective if everyone fails to report the safety hazards when they occur. Far too many facilities today have a problem with underreporting of accidents, injuries, near-misses, and hazards in general.

In some cases, this underreporting is the result of safety managers pushing everyone to meet specific numbers, and the employees feel the only way to accomplish this is by keeping quiet about problems. Even if this does help facilities look safer on paper, it doesn’t actually make any real progress, and over time it will result in more people getting injured, and the injuries will likely be much more severe. With this in mind, all facility safety managers need to take a step back and figure out how to improve the reporting of safety hazards at work, while still improving overall safety.

“Everyone in a workplace shares responsibility for ensuring that their work environment is safe and healthy. Some hazards pose an immediate danger and others take a longer time to become apparent. But both types of hazards must be fixed. If you are aware of a hazard in your workplace, you should report it promptly to your supervisor, employer or health and safety representative.” – takeonestep.org – Wellness at Work

The Numbers will suffer

Anytime a facility is making an effort to improve the accuracy of reporting safety hazards at work, it is important to be realistic about what this will mean. When facilities begin pushing for proper reporting, the result will be more hazards being found. Depending on how the facility evaluates safety, this could make it appear that the facility is becoming more dangerous. Prior to making any changes, safety managers need to let upper management know that this is likely to occur for a period of time until things can normalize.

It is also important to make sure everyone in the facility knows that any changes in the safety reporting numbers isn’t reflective of an actual change in how safe they are. The change in numbers is just going to be reflecting the actual safety situation of the facility, which may have been covered up (intentionally or not) in the past. Once everyone knows that this type of change is expected, it will be possible to begin making adjustments in how the reporting of safety hazards at work is done.

Steps to Improve Reporting Safety Hazards at Work

Once everyone is prepared for the fact that the reporting of safety hazards in the facility is going to be changing, it is time to plan out exactly how you want this to take place. It is important to take this opportunity to put a good system into place, so you don’t have to make further adjustments in the future. While each facility will need to make their own system based on their specific situation, the following steps will help guide you through the process.

  1. Finding Problems – The first step should be looking at the system you have in place today, and identifying where it is not meeting the needs of the company. Whether you have an ineffective safety reporting system in place, or you have nothing at all, it is always best to start by analyzing things the way they are.
  2. Planning the New System – Once you’ve found the problems that you have to overcome, it is time to plan out a new system that you will put in place. The new system should be something that will allow accurate reporting at all levels. Specifics on this will be listed later in this article.
  3. Checking the New System – After you’ve got a ‘first draft’ of your new safety reporting system in place, you need to double check to make sure it will solve all the problems you found in the first step. In addition, it needs to be checked to ensure the system will work in the facility, and that it doesn’t just look good on paper.
  4. Submitting for Approval – As with any company, you’ll likely need to get approval from the senior management. Presenting the new reporting system in a way that will show how it will help to identify hazards, and encourage safety improvements will help get it approved.
  5. Implementation – After approval, it is time to start implementing the new safety hazards reporting system. Depending on the complexity of the system, and how large the facility is, this step could take anywhere from a single day to several weeks.
    • Training – Part of the implementation of the new system needs to include training on how the system will work, and what everyone’s responsibilities are. This will include things like how to identify hazards, and how to report them properly. In addition to training, showing your employees safety training DVD’s (like this one here) can help train employees on how to identify and avoid common workplace hazards.
    • Tracking – It is also essential to begin tracking all information from the very first day. Tracking hazards (and any changes made to address those hazards) needs to be implemented quickly so you can see how the new system is working.
  6. Review – In the days and weeks after implementation has taken place, it is important to review the results honestly. Looking at how well the new system works, and making any adjustments necessary will help ensure the reporting of safety hazards in the workplace is done properly.
  7. Adjust As Necessary – Once you’ve implemented the program and taken some time to review the results, it is critical to make any needed adjustments as they come up. No program will be perfect right from the beginning, so adjustments are key. Even months and years down the road, small changes will become necessary so you should never be fearful of changing something about this system.

Going through these steps when looking to make safety reporting improvements will not only help get a good system in place, but it will help avoid a lot of the problems. These types of systems have been proven successful in thousands of facilities throughout the world, and when done properly, they can greatly improve the safety of any company.

Planning the New System

Most of the above steps are fairly self-explanatory, and are easy to follow when making any type of changes to a facility. Planning a new safety hazard reporting system, however, can be quite difficult. While it is true that every facility will need their own custom solution, it is also important to look at what types of things work across any facility in any industry. The following information will help you to have the foundation for planning your own new reporting system that is based on industry best practices.

Seeking the Truth

Any reporting system that you put in place must be based on the idea that you (and your entire facility) is looking to learn the truth about safety, no matter what it is. Sometimes it can be tempting to try to set up a system that will only reveal certain types of problems, or focus on specific areas of safety hazards. This is a mistake which, if made, will require additional changes to be made down the road. It is much more efficient to seek to expose all safety hazards with this new system, so that the facility can be on a path toward constant safety improvement.

This is done best by having a system that properly encourages the reporting of all potential hazards, without taking it so far as to incentivize people for ‘over-reporting’ just to get some type of incentive or reward. This can be a difficult line to walk, but it is possible.
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Making Reporting Safety Hazards at Work Easy

The next step in planning out a new system is developing a good reporting system that everyone can use. The actual system that people use to report problems needs to be easy enough to allow everyone to use it, but detailed enough to make it beneficial. Some things to think about when creating a reporting system include:

  • What Information Do You Need – Make sure your reporting system gathers all the information about a given safety hazard that you need, and nothing extra. Keeping it focused only on the important details will streamline the process, and make it easier to use for everyone.
  • Multiple Options – In many facilities it is a good idea to offer paper reporting, email reporting, and even mobile reporting options. This way people can use the option that they are most comfortable with.
  • Anonymous Reporting – While it is best to get the person who is reporting the hazard to give their information so you can follow up with them, it is still important to allow anonymous reporting. Some people won’t want to report a problem if they think it will draw attention to themselves, so this type of reporting will help ensure everyone is participating.

Is an Incentive Program Right for Your Facility?

When planning out your system, you will need to weigh the pros and cons of using some sort of incentive program to encourage reporting. There are many benefits, and many problems that come with this type of system. Knowing what these are for your facility will help you determine whether or not you want to use this strategy to help encourage safety hazard reporting.

Some of the most significant benefits of incentive programs include:

  • Higher Participation Levels – when people are incentivized to participate in a program, they are much more likely to do so.
  • Faster Adoption – people are much more likely to start using the new system right away when there is an incentive to do so.
  • People Pay Attention – When done properly, incentive programs can encourage people to actively look for safety hazards to report, rather than only reporting those that are ‘right in front of them’ so to speak.
  • Excuse for Participation – Some employees will be hesitant to participate in any new safety program for fear of negative peer pressure. If there is an incentive to participate, however, they can do so without the same problems. Some employees may comment to each other that they are only doing it for the bonus, for example, even if they are actually very interested in improving safety.

On the other hand, here are some of the biggest problems you’ll face with an incentive program:

  • Expensive – Incentive programs require a constant budget to keep them going. This may be something fairly small, or it could cost a lot of money to maintain.
  • False Reporting – When people are incentivized for reporting safety problems, they are more likely to make things up just to get the reward.
  • Duplicate Reporting – You’ll likely get multiple reports of the same safety hazard, so you need to know whether you will ‘pay out’ to everyone who reports it, or only the first person, or have some other type of system for when this happens.
  • Program Suffers Without Incentives – In the event that the incentives are no longer available at some point in the future (due to budget cuts or other factors) the program will undoubtedly suffer. Once people are used to getting some sort of incentive, they won’t want to go without it.

Choosing whether or not to use an incentive program when planning out a safety hazard reporting system can be difficult. In many cases, you can have smaller incentives in place which aren’t great enough to trigger the problems listed above, but are just enough to get the attention of the people in the facility. What these incentives might be, or how they are used, will depend on the specific situation of each facility. Taking the time to find that proper balance is well worth the effort.

Make Safety Improvements Public

One of the most important things to include when planning a new safety hazard reporting program is a system of making all safety improvements public. Letting everyone know that a particular safety hazard was identified by the new program, and what is being done to fix the issue, will show everyone that the program is working.

This can also help keep people participating in the program, because they will feel that it is actually an effective system for improving overall safety. Without this type of public notification of safety improvements, people can quickly become disinterested in reporting safety problems.

Avoid Negative Repercussions

When people are reporting safety hazards in the workplace they are often going to be worried about either getting in trouble themselves, or getting their co-workers in trouble. It should be clear from the beginning that it is not the goal of the program to get anyone in trouble, but just to resolve safety hazards. If someone is performing their job incorrectly, and causing safety problems, it is better to simply instruct the employee on how to do it properly than it is to write them up, or even terminate them.

Of course, if they continue to perform the job incorrectly, it will be necessary over time to take some sort of disciplinary action. This, however, should only be done as a last resort. If people see others getting fired, or written up after they reported a safety problem, they will be less likely to report these issues in the future. This is why it is so important to avoid negative repercussions related to the safety reporting system whenever possible.

Don’t Be Afraid to Correct Mistakes

Whether during the planning stages, or after implementation, it is important to be willing to acknowledge where mistakes are made, and correct them. No system will ever be perfect, so allowing people to report problems with the safety reporting system is a good idea. When concerns are brought up, it is best to analyze them honestly, and make any needed changes right away. By showing everyone that this system is subject to improvement, they will likely take it much more seriously and participate at a greater level.

It is never too early or too late to Start

Creating a new safety hazard reporting system can seem like a lot of work, and when done properly, it will be. Despite this fact, however, it is best to just get started on this as soon as possible. Most people will find that creating a good system that will work for their specific facility really isn’t as difficult as they expected. When things start out, the different aspects of the program will being to fall into place. This is, perhaps, because the system is designed to bring the truth of any safety situation to the attention of the facility.

As the old sayings go, nothing worth doing is easy, and that is true of this type of system as well. Once the program is in place, however, it will create a safer workplace, and can literally save lives. There can really be no doubt that this type of thing is well worth the effort.

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