Encourage open discussion in the workplace about safety, including speaking up to disclose problems, errors, incidents, and near misses.
This supportive approach can reduce the likelihood of major destructive or harmful events. Voicing safety is important for high-quality information to flow up and down an organisations’ hierarchy with a view to learning and improvement and improving safety capability.
A proactive and agile response will encourage sharing of information and improve the capability of workers to respond to real or potential safety issues in the future.
A shared workforce perception that ‘speaking up’ behaviours are accepted and valued will encourage workers to share their experiences. To develop this:
- provide opportunities for workers to speak up on safety concerns, for example allocating time for discussion about work health and safety related matters during regular team meetings
- establish health and safety representatives (HSRs) and health and safety committees (HSCs) for work groups that function to increase opportunities for speaking up
- act when concerns are raised so workers can see the value of speaking up.
When managers and supervisors are active in promoting WHS, workers are more likely to raise issues and share their experiences. Encourage workers to listen when co-workers raise safety concerns, and advocate for respectful discussions between the team.
Encourage your workers to be vigilant in raising issues, incidents, and near misses by using supportive and positive language statements to reinforce your approach to WHS.
Have you communicated to your workforce that if they have a reasonable concern about a serious risk to their health and safety from an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard, they may cease or refuse to carry out work?
Develop safety leadership skills and behaviours of your managers and supervisors using resources such as the LEADing for Frontline Safety Workbook (PDF, 3.43 MB) so they can:
- encourage and support workers to see mistakes as a learning opportunity. They can help drive a culture where team members feel comfortable sharing their mistakes and learnings
- show support for workers who are willing to raise WHS topics by asking for feedback on how to improve safety.
Workers should be encouraged to speak up about WHS, even if it is likely to be controversial. Challenging long-held beliefs, including current policies and procedures, can be beneficial to promote discussions about emerging trends, plant and equipment issues, the sharing of ideas and relevant personal experiences. Open communication will help to improve WHS policies and procedures in your business alongside encouraging workers to support each other when they talk about safety concerns.
Respectful communication will ensure the safety message is heard and contributes to positive relationships between team members. This allows effective team engagement, promotes safety messages, and will open dialogue in the team.
Where the discussion is part of a toolbox or team meeting, the chair may need to set ground rules for a respectful discussion such as:
- focusing on the facts and what can be directly observed, rather than speculation or feelings
- reminding participants to not interrupt someone while they are speaking to ensure all participants can contribute equally and feel heard and respected
- informing participants that finger-pointing and blaming should be avoided, i.e., ‘we are here to address the issue, not any individual’s behaviour’
- documenting notes for the purposes of considering the information, not using it to single out specific workers for their opinions.
It’s important that the discussion finishes with ‘next steps’, which is critical to providing participants with an understanding of what will happen with their comments, how they will be considered, and when they will hear about a plan of action. Effective consultation includes communication systems and processes that encourage workers to speak up. Depending on your work environment, you may need to use a combination of written and verbal communication strategies.
- Share your vision for everyone to speak up about safety. Resources available in the Safety Fundamentals Toolkit such as the Induction Checklist (DOCX, 0.03 MB) can help to remind you to share your values with new workers.
- Develop the communication skills of your managers, team leaders, and supervisors to allow them to engage with their team effectively, promote safety messages in ways that make sense to the team, and open dialogue within the team.
- Discuss WHS at workplace meetings to establish a space for workers to raise concerns, even if it may be controversial.
View the Resources page for information and tips on how to improve your systems and processes to build your safety capability and understand your legal obligations.