4 Tips On How To Get Health and Safety Buy-In
Workplace health and safety often gets a bad rep – just mention forms, paperwork, inspections, rules, procedures and watch eyes instantly begin to glaze over. Whilst this nature of the job can’t be changed, health and safety professionals sometimes don’t help themselves by the way they present. Safety investments and training sessions (being on the duller end of business operations) require exceptional presentation skills in order to change the perception, make safety more relatable, and align it directly with the business’s bottom line.
Safety professionals who struggle to get employees and senior management to buy-in simply aren’t positioning health and safety as worthwhile. Here are some tips to make sure your audience are always listening.
Make Your Training Sessions Relatable
I know it can’t be helped, but a lot of health and safety work is boring. There are numerous rules to follow, risk assessments to cover, paperwork to be filled in, plus it can be difficult to see how all this work relates to the business’s overarching goals. Everyone recognises theoretically why health and safety is important, but few can articulate how it benefits them directly (that is, until an accident happens).
A lot of the time, safety professionals are talking at employees, rather than to them. This is the wrong attitude: health and safety shouldn’t have to be sold to employees. If you want to change the perception, get good at having reciprocal conversations with employees. Focus on making safety about employees and less about them following rules. Help employees see how safety helps them – not you.
Instil The Fear Of God
Nothing makes people sit up and listen like a good story – especially when it’s a horror genre! When conducting safety procedures don’t just plough through the rulebook, personalise and add embellishment with a good horror story (real or fake). Without drifting into hyperbole, mention some of the more serious accidents that have occurred – particularly when working from a height, with sharp, hot or heavy materials, or with large machinery – as well as the fallout of such incidents.
This is how you not only get employees to listen, but to also get senior buy-in. When they hear about the higher cost of health and safety convictions, they might think twice before discounting it from the company bottom line.
Demonstrate Return On Investment
Particularly for those in the primary and secondary industry sectors, health and safety should be front and centre of the business’s priorities. However, too often senior managers do not provide adequate employee safety inductions and precautions, under the guise of saving time and money.
Health and safety should be presented as a cheap insurance policy. Explain that a major incident can result in legal costs and penalties that reach into the six figures, plus there will be PR clean-up to follow for months, and perhaps years, afterwards. Next, go through the positive ‘soft’ factors that result of implementing a solid health and safety programme, i.e. improved employee satisfaction and productivity levels.
Redefine Your Position In The Company
Safety professionals ultimately need to think bigger about their position if they really want to have an impact. They need to step out of the role of managers of the status quo, towards leaders and innovators. Safety becomes more exciting and easier to buy-in to when it looks like it’s moving forward: people will get behind something with momentum.
Make a list of three things you realistically wish to improve about your current health and safety culture and programme, then start pushing to get them done. Ask fellow employees to help you move your list forward: ambition is infectious!
About the author
Bryan Richards is a managing partner at health and safety consultants Arinite.