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Worker Involvement

It is generally accepted by many authorities that worker or employee involvement is an essential part of good health and safety management. Current legislation requires employers to provide information, instruction and training and to consult with employees before making changes that could affect their health and safety. But whilst simply communicating health and safety aims and objectives is a good first step full engagement with employees requires something more. Telling employees about something isn't nearly as effective as involving them in the planning and implementation. The aim should be to get "buy in".

A change in culture and behaviour should result in active and effective participation of the employees in risk management.

One way to try and achieve this is to seek the involvement of all employees in all aspects of risk management, from the identification of hazards, the carrying out of risk assessments, the control of unsafe acts and behaviours as well as participation in training and the investigation of accidents. There is no easy, off the shelf solution to securing employee involvement and for many firms it will require a "test and learn" approach in order to identify the best approach. If one idea or initiative fails then another should be attempted. When something works, it should be used as a foundation or springboard for more activities. Approaches that have been tried and found to be effective include:

  • Safety committees: a traditional approach that can be effective; take care to ensure it doesn't become a talking shop - aim for action 
  • Project Groups: setting up teams comprising both management and employees to tackle specific problems can be effective 
  • Reporting Schemes: these can range from reporting of near misses to seeking suggestions to improve accident prevention/risk management 
  • Involvement of employees in Risk Assessments: perhaps one of the best ways of making sure that risk assessments reflect real life situations 
  • Toolbox Talks: a way of getting important messages across in an easy to understand format 
  • Recognition: whilst financial incentives e.g. awards for accident free periods are not really effective (they can lead to under-reporting of accidents) think about small awards for health and safety suggestions (and make it a safety related prize, for example give a set of car safety gear such as warning triangle, reflective tabard, gloves etc) 
  • Awaydays/Offsite Activities: Simple "fundays" may not produce meaningful results but think about arranging trips to other companies in the locality, aim to get a new perspective on risk management by seeing how others do it

There will be other approaches - be inventive and think up your own. Above all keep on trying, the old saying that "Rome wasn't built in a day" applies here. Truly effective worker involvement won't happen overnight. There may be a history of employees being excluded from safety management, a culture of cynicism to defeat, a lack of interest or understanding to overturn. But remember that nothing succeeds like success, when you achieve a gain, no matter how small, capitalise on it and aim for a bigger impact and better result next time.

More details can be obtained on HSE's topic page on worker involvement.

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Please Note
This document contains general information and guidance and is not and should not be relied on as specific advice. The document may not cover every risk, exposure or hazard that may arise and Aviva recommend that you obtain specific advice relevant to the circumstances. AVIVA accepts no responsibility or liability towards any person who may rely upon this document.

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