Safety Program Management Consultants

Dealing with Employees Who Won’t Follow Safety Rules

  • You think you’re doing all the right things to ensure workplace safety. You talk up workplace safety at every opportunity. You have policies and procedures in place, reinforced by signs and placards. Yet the number on your “Days Since Our Last Incident” sign never seems to budge past the single digits, and you can’t figure out why. At Safety International, experience has taught us that your policies are only effective insofar as your employees follow them.

    Foster the Proper Culture

    One of the most common issues we see is the disconnect between stated safety goals and the behavior that company culture reinforces. If a worker understands that they’ll be dressed down if productivity drops, or have their job threatened — whether explicitly or implicitly — if metrics aren’t met, corners will be cut, safeties disabled, or PPE foregone. “Just this once,” of course.

    Except that it’s easier than that for bad behavior to become habitual. Those habits, in turn, lead to higher chances of injury, increased liability, decreased productivity, and the possibility of OSHA citations and crippling fines. Make sure your employees know their value, and that you prioritize your safety; just as importantly, don’t just tell them — show them.

    Spell Out Your Rules and Expectations

    To better understand how to develop and understand workplace safety policy, it’s instructive to begin with the guidelines in the OSHA Field Operations Manual and work backwards. In the event of an incident, OSHA looks for the following:

    • Workplace rules were in place, in writing, to prevent the violation
    • Those rules were communicated clearly, both verbally and in writing, to employees
    • Regular inspections were undertaken to uncover and address violations, and these inspections were documented
    • Rules were enforced upon discovery of violations, with all violations and disciplinary actions — including verbal warnings — properly documented

    By now, you’ve noticed a few pattern emerging. Document everything, for the sake of consistency and your own protection. If you’re not sure of the best ways to formulate safety policies, to train for proper implementation, or to issue corrective actions firmly but fairly, Safety International can help you devise an end-to-end workplace safety program.

    Provide the Tools to Succeed

    If you’ve determined that PPE is necessary on-site, provide it. If better lighting, better ventilation, and better sanitation would make for a safer workplace, address those issues as well. No matter how prominently you display the rules, and no matter how eloquently you’ve worded them, your employees are paying close attention to your actions as well. Show them that you mean what you say, and show them that their well-being has meaning to you. Properly equip them,  and provide them with the safety training to take their safety into their own hands.

    Enforce Rules Consistently and Fairly

    Finally, ensure that everyone plays by the same rulebook. Sure, he’s the new guy, or maybe she’s the owner’s daughter-in-law, or old Cliff isn’t following procedure because he’s 75 and has been working the same way for 50 years and he’s still got most of his fingers. No matter. Everyone follows the same rules, and everyone faces the same consequences, in the same order, if they do not. Letting someone off the hook for bad conduct, or applying the rules in a way that cushions the blow for some but not others, lowers morale and undermines your efforts to keep all your employees safe.

    Workplace safety is a constant challenge that should be met with constant vigilance. Safety International helps your business with OSHA and ISNetworld compliance, but more importantly, we help you with the human element that makes your policies effective. Contact us today for a safety consultation.

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