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Engaging Employees

Engaging Employees

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36
ProfessionalSafety 
APRIL 2011
 
www.asse.org 
Engaging
Employees
uccessul organizations
involve employees at all levels in various aspects o the business andlue their input. To create a ully en-mpassing corporate culture, employ-es must be involved and engaged andave the opportunity to provide input onhanges to their workplace.Saety perormance is no exception.tudies have shown a positive link be-een employee engagement, employee volvement and saety perormance. I hanges that could aect saety are made without seeking employee input and in- volvement, it may be dicult to continuously im-prove saety perormance within an organizationover time.
Relationship Between Employee Engagement,Employee Involvement & Safety
Commonalities can be ound in the literature when comparing the numerous denitions o em-ployee engagement. Vance (2006) examines how this term is dened by employers and corporateconsultants and concludes:Though dierent organizations dene en-gagement dierently, some common themesemerge. These themes include employees’satisaction with their work and pride in theiremployer, the extent to which people enjoy and believe in what they do or work and theperception that their employer values whatthey bring to the table.Employee engagement is directly correlated tothe amount o involvement that employees havein their work processes and activities (Lockwood,1997). Employee involvement in saety is critical toensuring that they become engaged in the saety spects o their work and the organization’s saety program.Employee engagement is requently discussednd studied in the human resources community. Although the measure o employee engagement
 
IN BRIEF
Increasing employeeinvolvement and engage-ment can positively affectan organization’s safetyperformance.
SH&E professionals canemploy various methods to more effectively engageand involve employees in the safety program.
Lean manufacturing initia- tives provide an excel-lent opportunity improvesafety and grow employeeinvolvement.
Megan S. Ranes, CSP,
has more than 11 years’ experience in saety, primarily inthe automotive and manuacturing industries. She works or American Red Cross(Biomedical Services) in the EHS Department in Roanoke, VA. Prior to this, she was corporate saety manager or Comau Inc. in Southeld, MI, and was responsi-ble or SH&E activities or its North American operations. Raines holds a B.S.E. inChemical Engineering and an M.S. in Biomedical Engineering rom the University  Michigan. She is a proessional member o ASSE’s Star Valley Chapter.
Program Development
Peer-Reviewed
 AnotherStep inImprovingSafety
By Megan S. Raines
   ©   i   s   c   t   o   c   k   p   h   o   t   o .   c   o   m   /   D   a   n   e   r   o
 
www.asse.org 
 
APRIL 2011
ProfessionalSafety 
37
can seem somewhat subjective, it can be objective-ly measured using employee surveys. Studies haveshown a positive relationship between the mea-sured level o employee engagement and businesspriorities such as higher productivity, better quality and increased protability.Fewer studies have examined the impact o employee engagement on SH&E perormance.However, those studies show a signicant positivecorrelation between the level o employee engage-ment and saety perormance
.
For example, Gallup compared the critical busi-ness outcomes o workgroups within more than125 organizations. This meta-analysis compared workgroups that were in the top-quartile and bot-tom-quartile in employee engagement measures(
Harter, Schmidt, Killham, et al., 2006)
.Employee engagement levels were determinedby administering a survey that measured overallsatisaction as well as items considered actionableat the supervisor or manager levels, which can pre-dict attitudinal outcomes such as pride, loyalty andsatisaction. According to the study, engaged busi-ness units experienced 62% ewer saety incidentsthan units with lower employee engagement (Har-ter, et al., 2006).Erickson (2000) compares results rom severalstudies and concludes that the management char-acteristic which is most predictive o good saety perormance is a positive employee environment.This includes characteristics such as respecting employees, open communication, and employeeinvolvement and participation.
 While Harter, et al. (2006), and Erickson (2000)compare results across dierent studies and, thus,across dierent organizations, one can nd numer-ous published examples o individual organizationsthat have seen improved saety perormance aterimplementing programs to increase employee en-gagement.
One such example was described in a Society or Human Resource Management (SHRM) Foun-dation report. In this report, the Molson Coorsbeverage company saved $1.7 million in saety costs during 2002 by strengthening employee en-gagement. Engaged employees were ve timesless likely than nonengaged employees to have asaety incident and seven times less likely to havea lost-time saety incident. In addition, the averagecost o a saety incident was $392 or nonengagedemployees, but only $63 or engaged employees(Vance, 2006).
In another example, Connecticut Light and Power(CL&P) implemented a saety workout program tosolve identied saety problems and other issues.This method emphasized employee involvementat every level, and included the ormation o cross-unctional teams to solve problems and address is-sues. Ater the rst year, CL&P experienced a 27%reduction in lost workday injuries and a 34% reduc-tion in preventable motor vehicle accidents. Theinitiative also resulted in increased employee buy-in, involvement and improved relations across theorganization (Bolger, 2004).
 Another company implemented an employeeinvolvement model. This 12-step process empha-sized teamwork and employee involvement insaety. Communication increased, and cooperationand commitment between union and management was at a high level. In the rst year ollowing theintervention, the company reported a 70% reduc-tion in lost workday cases (rom 10 cases to 3) anda 100% reduction in saety violations as measuredby a consultant (50 violations versus 0 violations)(Ariss, 2003).These examples do not conclusively demonstratea strict cause-and-eect relationship between em-ployee engagement and saety perormance. How-ever, when considered in conjunction with therelated research on the topic, it is dicult to over-look the potential impact o employee engagementon saety perormance.Turning employees rom simple ollowers intoactive participants in the saety processes canstrengthen the level o their engagement and ul-timately will benet the organization and the em-ployees. The organizations in the cited examplesused dierent methods to involve and engageemployees, and all achieved signicant improve-ments. Thereore, the method o involvement doesnot appear to be crucial as long as employees areactively participating.Employee involvement is recognized as a key requirement o an SH&E management systembecause o its strong relationship to saety per-ormance. In act, to obtain OHSAS 18001 certi-cation, an organization must demonstrate thatemployees participate in specic aspects o thesaety management system. This includes develop-ment and review o SH&E policies and objectives,and consultation when changes aect employeesaety and health (BSI, 2007).Similarly, OSHA Voluntary Protection Programs(VPP) must involve employees in SH&E manage-ment in at least three meaningul, constructive ways (OSHA, 2008). This involvement is paired with management commitment as the rst corner-stone o VPP, which is oten regarded as the mostimportant component o the program (Bennett &Deitch, 2007).Similarly, ANSI/AIHA Z10-2005 places employeeparticipation in the same category as managementleadership within the total saety management sys-tem. Again, this is regarded as the standard’s mostimportant section (Manuele, 2006). Managementcommitment and leadership go hand-in-hand withemployee involvement; both are critical to the suc-cess o any saety management system.
Engaging Employees in Safety
For employees to eel that they are engaged inthe saety process, the organization must generateseveral actors:
•employee involvement;•consideration of employee ideas•communication;•positive feedback;•respect.
 
38
ProfessionalSafety 
APRIL 2011
 
www.asse.org 
Employee Involvement
Employee involvement in saety changes shouldbe initiated as early in the project as possible. When evaluating options to modiy work processesor equipment, ask employees or their opinion. Thenal decision must satisy all regulatory and orga-nizational requirements to ensure a sae work en- vironment, but in many cases, multiple approachescan meet these requirements. Those preerred by employees should receive priority when easible, while also considering cost, timing and other im-portant business needs.
Considering Employee Ideas
Employees must eel that their ideas and opinionsare valued and will be taken seriously. They shouldbe encouraged to generate ideas and express opin-ions regarding workplace saety. When they do so,they must eel that the organization values this in-put and will evaluate and act on it as easible.
 When employee ideas are implemented, give theoriginator(s) proper credit and recognition. Whenan employee presents a saety concern or sugges-tion, s/he should receive ollow-up communicationon the status o that concern or suggestion, even i the organization decides not to implement it.
Communication
Communication relating to saety must fow reely through all levels o the organization. Saety-related communications must be clear and concise,and employees must understand their responsibili-ties. Explain why saety changes are needed.In addition, employees must be aware o the pro-cess to express a saety concern or to communicatesuggestions or improvement. A simple avenue orcommunication must be present, and employeesmust know whom to contact. The process cannotbe cumbersome or slow.
Positive Feedback 
Sae behavior should be encouraged and re- warded. This can be accomplished using ormal orinormal methods, or a combination o both.
Respect
Employees must be treated with respect. Sae-ty-related interactions must preserve personal re-spect, even in disciplinary situations.Leadership support is critical to oster an envi-ronment that supports these actors. This extendsto saety personnel. Employee perceptions aboutorganizational commitment to saety are otenbased on their interactions with saety personnel.Management (including saety personnel) whoeectively involve and engage employees whenreviewing potential workplace modications canmake a signicant dierence in the success o suchprojects (Machles, Bonkemeyer & McMichael,2010; Groover & Spigener, 2008).However, when management and saety per-sonnel do not involve and engage employees, cul-ture change is unlikely (Bolger, 2004). Employeesmay eel that management does not care abouttheir well-being, and may view SH&E proession-als as saety cops who simply implement and en-orce management initiatives and do not truly helpemployees. Employees may comply with saety rules most o the time, but they may believe thatsaety slows them down and makes their jobs moredicult.In organizations with healthy corporate cultures,employees are aware that management (including saety personnel) is genuinely interested in them.In such a setting, employees will respond with in-novative thinking, suggestions and decision mak-ing that can benet the organization (Erickson,2000). A mutual respect will more likely occur when management, including saety personnel,can engage employees.
Employee Involvement
Management can involve employees in an orga-nization’s saety program in various ways:
•Encourage employees to voluntarily partici
-pate in saety committees and emergency responseteams. Teams should meet regularly and encour-age participants to reely express their ideas andsuggestions. Participants can be assigned roles toincrease their involvement, such as coleading aproject along with a management representative.
•Invite employees to participate with manage
-ment in ormal saety incident investigations,including development and implementation o corrective actions that may aect their job tasks.
•Conduct brainstorming sessions with employ 
-ees when developing solutions to identied saety issues or hazards. For example, beore developing a procedure on how to saely perorm a task, gatheraected employees to discuss their perspectives o possible hazards and easibility o solutions.
•Solicit employee ideas and opinions when de
- veloping job hazard analyses, risk assessments andsimilar documents. Ask them to identiy potentialhazards and help develop protective measures.
•Establish a formal employee suggestion pro
-gram that encourages suggestions relating to saety improvements. Whether tangible rewards are parto the program, employees who submit a sugges-tion that is implemented should be recognized ortheir contribution.
•Allow employees to participate in or conduct
 workplace saety inspections. Invite them to shareresults in a saety committee meeting, manage-ment meeting or similar venue.
•Involve employees in behavior-based safety 
observation processes.
•Hold shift huddle meetings on a daily or
 weekly basis and ocus on saety with the entire workgroup. Discuss relevant saety items, but al-low individuals to comment or oer suggestionsregarding their saety in ront o the group or one-on-one ollowing the meeting.
•When evaluating changes to brands/types of 
PPE, hand tools or similar items, allow employeesto test samples beore making a nal decision. Forexample, i three dierent types o saety glassesare being considered, obtain samples o all three

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