Nicky Chenery explains how to unlock a health and safety culture with technology, training and communication.
World Health and Safety Day at work reminds us that business as usual is drastically different from what we knew before Covid. Deskbound workers are now navigating the return to office movement as frontliners forge ahead among evolving processes and guidelines. Through it all, it’s clear that a robust safety culture at work is business critical.
A strong safety culture ensures employees feel heard and trusted. Significantly, only 67 percent of the global workforce feel heard on topics that matter to them most: safety (46%), health & wellbeing (49%) and operations (54%), so we’ve still got work to do to create workplaces where our employees feel listened to.
Technology in our workplaces is no longer a choice, it’s a must: as new generations enter our workforce, we must adapt to their needs and expectations. Our workforce demands to feel heard immediately, so there is no desire to report accidents, raise issues or request help via lengthy paper forms and processes.
It’s time we turn to tech to help us build robust safety cultures, follow the below tips to leverage a digital approach to workplace safety.
There’s no excuse for lack of training
One of the biggest emerging risks at work identified by the UN for World Health and Safety Day at Work is the rise of the temporary workforce. Increasing reliance on contract and freelance work open up communication and training gaps in the workplace, due to the short time frame those employees spend with us.
What’s more, according to our research (released on World Health and Safety Day at Work), more than half of global frontline workers said they had received no workplace health and safety training in the past year and even more worrying, 1 in 5 have received no training at all.
It’s never been more vital that training is offered and old classroom learning styles are replaced with digital tools to onboard workers remotely and rapidly. Learning Management System tools, for example, provide accessible and digestible training on the go, so workforces can continually refresh their learning anytime, anywhere, straight from their mobile device, on their commute or during a coffee break – if implemented, astonishing figures such as the above will be eradicated, and businesses will operate with a more engaged and empowered workforce.
Mobile-first training also helps us plug the gap and satisfy our legal and moral obligation to our employees. As a result, they have the knowledge they need to do their best and safest work every day.
Strengthen operations with digital pathways
The biggest mistake we can make is assuming a process is faultless. Business operations, and the tools used to successful implement them, need to allow room for continuous improvement and visibility in the workplace.
Digital tools remove assumptions and create pathways to increased visibility, enabling frontline teams to report near misses, record incidents and request support through a mobile-first platform in minutes. Digital tooling also leaves an irreversible digital trail that maps the journey to resolution, making meeting compliance requirements simpler and quicker. Tracking provides health and safety professionals with confidence that incidents are recorded immediately and rectified appropriately. Increased visibility over near misses and incidents will also help map areas for improvement and proactively prevent issues.
Issues or incidents naturally provoke negative connotations, yet positive observations or rectifications made in our workplace should be rewarded. It’s key that employees feel valued for the things they do right and the part they play in creating healthy and safe workplaces.
Retailers like American Golf leverage tools such as iAuditor to analyse store performance through inspections, issues and actions, recognising and rewarding the stores operating at the top of their game. To attract and retain a safe and healthy workforce we must create digital and streamlined reporting channels to help workforces elevate their voice.
Improve workplace communications
As the industry battles staff shortages following COVID and Brexit, it is more important than ever that stretched teams, and especially lone workers, feel heard and safe. Cloud-based lone worker safety apps such as SHEQSY ensure lone workers can provide real time alerts for missed check-ins, failing to finish a job as planned, and quick duress alarm activation quicky and easily. This allows for a much feel safer working environment, and allows businesses to easily manage employee safety.
Other ways of engaging employees to speak up about issues they see at work include scannable QR codes that allow for anonymous issue reporting as they occur so that the right people can be notified. This is especially crucial as recent SafetyCulture research found that frontline workers fear being ignored or even losing their job for simply reporting workplace issues to management.
World Health and Safety Day at Work was a time for us to reflect on what more we can do to prevent safety issues by creating or bolstering our safety culture in the workplace. For me, this is now an opportunity to look to the future and consider how we can reinvent our processes to work with, not against, technology. And, most importantly, how we can ensure our employees feel safe, validated and heard: and go home safe, every day.
Nicky Chenery is General Manager for EMEA at SafetyCulture, a global technology company helping working teams get better every day.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.