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Tony’s Blog

#1 - Tell them it’s about money

Presenting safety initiatives to employees is a major challenge in today’s workplace.  I’ve had to do it myself, and I can say that it is an unpleasant and unrewarding assignment at best.  It seems to me that each time I was tasked with introducing a new safety rule, the workers came away with a reduced ability to cope with the changes.  There was always a disequilibrium in their minds, because they couldn’t figure out what was motivating the company to complicate their work day with more bureaucracy.  Everyone in the audience was thinking “they can’t be serious - the company is going to go broke if they keep slowing us down like this!”

A bigger issue was that the workers couldn’t see how the new requirements would benefit them personally.  Instead of feeling as though safer was better, they were choosing to see it as making their lives more difficult.  A fellow I know summed up this mindset very well when he told me, “the rules are stupid, and they keep me from doing my job.”

As supervisors, we were really good at coming up with new safety rules and regulations.  However, we never acknowledged the elephant in the room, which was that our audience wasn’t buying what we had to sell.  At that point, the only card we had left to play was that if they didn’t follow the rules, we would fire them.  We would get superficial compliance, but those same rules would be broken in a heartbeat if the workers thought nobody was looking.

I’ve had some time to think about all this, and it is now clear to me that we were skipping a step or two.  How much better it would have been if we were able to talk freely about what was really driving the company’s safety program.  In other words, our message would have been received very differently if we were able to tell the workers that it is about money.

If it were up to me, this is how it should go:

  1. Emphasize that nobody wants to see someone get hurt.  Everyone here has families and friends, and we all suffer emotionally when people we know get injured or killed.

  2. Explain that if you’re wondering why the company is spending what appears to be exorbitant amounts of money on safety programs and equipment, it’s because it can cost exponentially more when incidents take place.  Slowing you down with rules and regulations is a calculated business decision.

  3. Make clear that while injuries will cost the company a bunch of money, they will write a check and be done with it.  You and your family could pay for the rest of your living days if you get hurt in a workplace incident.

At first glance, this approach might seem abrupt and offensive.  I would argue that saying “its about money” would make perfect sense to workers and would increase buy-in and overall success of a company safety program.

This is #1 in an upcoming series of blogs on this subject.  Please feel free to comment on my assertions thus far.

For more information on how to improve employee buy-in of your safety program, go to www.tuningintosafety.com

Tony Martin