In this article we look at 3 common reasons why workplace hazards go unreported:
1. Culture: Group Thinking
When humans are put into groups we are less likely to take action or feel a sense of responsibility for a situation. Even if that action could benefit us or our group members, we just twiddle our thumbs and stare at the ceiling. This phenomenon is called Diffusion of Responsibility.
Applied to safety, diffusion of responsibility can be tragic. It makes us more likely to take risks and less likely to define a situation as an emergency.
How can we create a safety culture that prevents diffusion of responsibility?
More Personal Accountability
If group thinking is the problem, then we should make workers feel like individuals! Make hazard reporting a way for them to stand out, not maintain the status quo.
Several of our clients have successfully introduced leaderboards, where workers at all levels of the organization can count and compare their total hazard reports. Not only does the leaderboard recognize individual accomplishment and gamify hazard reporting, it also promotes a positive leading indicator.
Now, we’re not suggesting that you remove all anonymity from the reporting process. In many cases, it’s necessary to withhold the identity of an employee being observed to promote a constructive no-blame no-name attitude towards safety. However, it is critical to acknowledge that employees are more likely to report hazards when they feel their contribution to safety hazard reporting is noticed and they are held accountable for their individual safety participation.
2. Leadership: Room for Doubt
A Canadian research team found that young workers who were taught the benefits of reporting safety hazards still took a “wait-and-see” approach to safety concerns. The article concludes that “their reluctance to raise issues by voicing concerns was related to fear of being fired, status as newcomers, supervisor indifference, and feelings of powerlessness.”
How can leaders counteract negative assumptions and feelings of powerlessness?
More Collaboration & Feedback
Nobody likes uncertainty. That’s why the first step to empowering workers is removing any doubt about the correct course of action: always report hazards! Clarify that they won’t be fired, they won’t be ostracized and management will listen.
The second step is proving that you will listen. Provide regular feedback to reinforce hazard reporting and include workers in hazard resolution. Let them see exactly how their report improved safety and had a positive impact on the organization.
3. Complexity: Making More Work
When reporting a hazard involves paper forms, double data entry and lengthy emails, is it any wonder that workers look the other way? Nobody wants to create more work for themselves or their colleagues. This is especially true for injury and near-miss reports. Is a slip and fall really worth an hour’s work
How can we simplify hazard reporting?
In a world of smartphones and tablets, the paper is obsolete. Mobile and cloud technologies eliminate double data entry and lengthy emails by saving hazard reports in a centralized repository, where they are automatically shared with team members (not to mention, trended and analyzed).
It’s a lot easier to justify reporting a fall when the report takes 5 minutes instead of an hour.
Organizations have both legal and ethical responsibilities to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees. No organization wants OSHA citations. And no organization wants to put their workers in harm’s way. Yet, without hazard reports, they are blind to the risks they (and their workers) face.
To motivate workers to participate in hazard reporting, your safety program needs personal accountability, collaboration and feedback, and less paper and manual steps.