Want to Improve Safety in the New Year? Have Some Fun
By Josh Williams, Ph.D.
Safety is too often viewed as a heavy anvil we’re dragging along in our work activities. Comments like, “we’ve got to do a safety meeting” or “we’ve got to attend safety training” reflect this. Even discussions of safety performance can be cumbersome when graph after graph is shown of LTA, TRIR and other rates without real, human discussions. The result is that safety begins to feel like a grind… a hassle…. a necessary evil.
Having some fun with safety will help. We’ve seen innovative programs by progressive organizations who find new ways interject some life into safety efforts. Here are a few examples that may trigger ideas for you in the new year:
• One organization used money allocated for safety posters and held a contest for employees to design their own safety signs. They stopped work on the floor and invited everyone to use pens, markers, and crayons with flip charts to design their own creations. They voted on the top 3 posters with small incentives. The winning poster showed Forest Gump running with all required PPE and the slogan, “Safety IS as safety DOES.” People loved the event and had fun critiquing (i.e., laughing at) each others’ artistic talents.
• Several companies host safety fairs where employees get paid to bring their families and learn about safety. This includes public speakers, hearing tests, blood pressure tests, food, music, and (yes) fun. People enjoy spending time with their families and coworkers in a different setting. Also, safety is addressed from the context of community and overall health and well-being. This feels very different from corporate-like safety efforts and requirements that people are normally accustomed to seeing.
• One organization encouraged people to take time out of their day to work out in the company gym. They were still getting paid when working out. There were initial concerns that people would abuse this privilege, but production rates were as strong as ever when this was implemented. Leaders also piped in music as a reminder for people to get up and stretch throughout the day. Plus, they provided 6-week (paid) sabbaticals for employees to follow their passions in addition to designated vacation time. This company continues to thrive both financially and with safety performance. Not surprisingly, turnover rates are extremely low.
• Another organization provided incentives for behavioral observations designed to promote safe work practices. When employees were asked about rewards for observation numbers completed, they ultimately decided to donate all profits to the local boys and girls club. As a result, participation rates were extremely high and they raised nearly $20,000 for this local charity. This instilled pride in the company and community and reinforced safety in a unique way.
Safety doesn’t have to be a grind. People can have fun when they get creative and solicit input from employees. Injecting a little fun into safety breaks up the routine and demonstrates active caring in a new, fresh way. Try it and see how it impacts your culture!