Social support for safety
Employees form beliefs about the level of assistance an organisation provides and the extent it values their individual contribution.
These perceptions are based on interactions with other stakeholders such as managers, supervisors, and co-workers’ interest in, and support for work health and safety (WHS).
When workers see importance being placed on working safely, they are more likely to be motivated to follow safety procedures and raise safety issues. Senior managers can demonstrate the importance of WHS by:
- spending time with workers to talk about safety
- developing a Work health and safety policy (DOCX, 0.02 MB) that sets the standards you expect everyone to follow.
- making sure workers are given time to perform work safely, to participate in training and meetings, and encouraged to raise safety issues as soon as they arise
- allocating work time to workers with specialist safety roles such as fire wardens, first aid officers and health and safety representatives (HSRs) and health and safety committees (HSCs)
- ensuring all workers have a position description that includes their WHS responsibilities
- setting long-term WHS goals and positive performance indicators
- ensuring supervisors report to senior managers on WHS matters such as injuries and return to work support.
Do your senior managers understand the daily WHS issues faced by workers and the impacts on their WHS? Is time spent with workers, observing their work or consulting with them to understand challenges?
Senior managers set the tone when they lead WHS activities in the workplace. The way they speak, respond, and involve others in responding to WHS issues will demonstrate the level of commitment to safety, and your workers will see that you’re serious about protecting their wellbeing.
Supervisors and team leaders should engage with their workers to provide support and encourage participation by scheduling WHS into daily activities. To emphasise the importance of a safe workplace, they should:
- be visible in the workplace by walking around and speaking to staff regularly about safety
- review the safety practices in the workplace to make sure workers continue to have the right equipment, training, competency, and capability to carry out their work safely
- ask workers for input on planned equipment and machinery purchases
- check in on safety when changes have occurred
- engage with staff with specialised safety roles such as HSRs to ensure issues being raised are dealt with in a timely manner
- supervise new and inexperienced workers to ensure they carry out their work safely. If needed, arrange for a buddy or mentor to assist.
Do your supervisors demonstrate a personal commitment to the health and safety of workers, even when under pressure to meet performance goals?
To learn more about the principles of effective communication, check out the building stronger teams (PDF, 0.09 MB) page.
Develop and implement a code of conduct so everyone is aware of appropriate work behaviours including the expectation to work safely and to treat each other with respect. Where possible, design work to emphasise team collaboration and looking out for each other.
- Workers must feel confident to report concerns when it comes to WHS, including unsafe behaviours of co-workers. The Safety fundamentals toolkit includes information and resources for Reporting safety. It can help you develop a process on how to respond and provide feedback on a WHS issue.
- Visit the page Team coordination and shared understanding for information on specific safety tasks.
Do you have workers who act as unofficial workplace leaders? Do these workers encourage positive health and safety behaviours and co-operative working?
Before starting work, new workers should participate in a corporate induction that includes information about the prioritisation of safety in your organisation. Use an Induction checklist (DOCX, 0.03 MB) to make the induction easy and thorough.
- Be visible when it comes to safety. Walk around and talk to workers to find out about safety. Be ready to act when issues are raised.
- Reward and recognise good WHS practices including unofficial workplace safety leaders.
- Support your supervisor’s development by providing training opportunities to support relationships between workers and supervisors. This could include skills for effective people management and understanding safety reporting under relevant legislation.
- Give workers time to share and discuss WHS to reinforce that WHS is a priority above other work goals.
View the Resources page for information and tips on how to improve your systems and processes to build your safety capability including prioritising organisational safety, importance of consultation, representation and participation, and understanding your legal obligations.
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