Workplace Safety and Employee Engagement
How Top Organizations Tackle Work-related Safety
Workplace Safety Stats:
- Every 15 seconds, a worker dies from a work-related accident or disease.
- Every 15 seconds, 153 workers have a work-related accident.
- Every day, 6,300 people die because of occupational accidents or work-related diseases – more than 2.3 million deaths per year.
- Every year 317 million accidents occur globally; many of these resulting in extended absences from work.
These striking figures originate from the International Labour Organization, the U.N. agency that brings together government, employer and worker representatives from 187 member countries. “The human cost of this daily adversity is vast and the economic burden of poor occupational safety and health practices is estimated at 4 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product each year.”¹
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate 4,836 work-related fatalities and approximately 2.9 million injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry in 2015, and an additional 752,600 cases among state and local governments.² Equally grim.
On a micro level, occupational health and safety issues can be an organization’s greatest nightmare. Beyond internal employee relation impacts and external reputational damages, studies by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work identify five main costs:
- Productivity related to loss of output or production
- Medical costs
- Quality of life monetary valuations for pain and suffering
- Administrative costs associated with reporting a workplace accident and applying for social security payments or worker compensation
- Insurance premiums and compensation payments. ³
Norm Baillie-David, Sr VP of Employee Engagement at TalentMap, is a thought-leader in the field of workplace safety culture, employee engagement, and the links between the two. He has worked directly with many major North American utilities and manufacturing operations to measure and improve safety culture vis a vis employee engagement. Data gleaned from these initiatives show effective safety management systems require regular workplace measurements to help drive change and wrestle down substantial costs. Collecting injury statistics and keeping incident reports are simply, not enough. They provide a benchmark but, do not identify root causes.
Measuring employee perceptions is fundamental to building a safe workplace. What this means is asking employees for predictive, “what-if” observations about certain safety-related behaviors in the workplace and how they (may or may not) impact safety outcomes. This exercise is referred to as TalentMap’s Employee Safety Culture and Perception Survey.
Focused exclusively on workplace safety, survey questions fall into three categories. The first, Safety Environment and Enablement, solicits insights about whether existing tools, technologies, equipment and the work environment in general, provide for a safe working experience. The second, Safety Program, Policies and Procedures, looks at whether safety information is common knowledge, easily accessible and demonstrably promoted. The third, Employee Involvement, Participation and Reporting, asks for experiential impressions as a participant or witness to good safety practices or violations.
Feedback guides direction
Safety Perception Surveys, combined with action planning, send powerful messages underscoring workplace safety as a priority. Findings highlight a confluence of strengths in some areas and opportunities for improvement in others. Examples of next-step actions might involve:
- Senior management becoming (even) more visible and vocal around safety, in other words setting an example by walking the talk.
- Consolidation and promotion of safety programs and policies – especially during the onboarding phase where new employees are learning the culture of the organization.
- Addressing perceived imbalances in the dichotomy between work-load and safety.
Actionable outcomes, in turn, foster continuous organizational improvements, chief among them:
- Risk Mitigation
- Increased Productivity/Reduced Employee Downtime
- Higher Employee Engagement, Morale and Trust
- Reduced Safety-Related Costs/Increased Profitability
- Improved Organizational Image and Public/Customer Confidence
Indeed, there are several ways to look at occupational health and safety. The biggest success factors, however, are galvanizing employee involvement and senior management commitment. The more employees and leadership engage in the safety process, the more safety outcomes and productivity will improve, and ultimately, numbers and severity of injuries will decline.