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How to Improve Reporting of Unsafe Conditions and Practices for a Safer Workplace

The Health & Safety departments in most organisations are in charge of developing policies and practices to increase worker security. While most incidents are reported meticulously to meet regulatory requirements like OSHA, near misses, unsafe conditions and unsafe practices are managed without any recording.

Yet, many accidents and near-accidents are caused by either inadequate procedures or incompetence in using procedures, and even neglect in routine maintenance. Consider the following instances.;

  • Blocking fire exit with boxes or any kind of material that can have serious impact on people exit in case of fire. This will always be considered as a red flag for safety. If noticed, OSHA will consider this worthy of a penalty
  • Unsafe working practices – either not wearing the proper gear or not following protection mechanism.
  • Unclean working environment – spillages (water, oil, chemical) sometimes might be less in volume but can cause slip and fall incidents. Statistics clearly state that the largest number of recorded incidents are fall incidents.
  • Door jams, loose cables, potholes, loose bolts on racks, blocked isles and many more such things do not necessarily fall under incidents or near misses and therefore not reported.

Most of the above are not reported or kept track of as part of the issues. Why such minor issues are not reported ? Often because reporting is a cumbersome process requiring to fill a few forms either on paper or fill a lot of details on a computer application.

Reporting is a challenge

Reporting is considered to be difficult in many organisations for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Any issue reporting can be done only by certain authority (supervisors, heads of departments, safety & health personnel etc)
  • Reporting an issue is a cumbersome job. Filling papers or updating computer with lot of details.
  • The log book is available only at the reception / security so to report any observation, one has to go a long way and back.
  • Reporting also means owning up and being able to provide substantiating evidence when needed or asked.
  • In case of misconduct or abuse, employees are scared of reporting for fear of repercussions.
  • Fear of humiliation to admit mistakes or reporting any near misses
  • Last but not the least, no confidence that the issue will be addressed as needed.

How to improve reporting

Make reporting very easy and simple

Simplicity and speed in reporting process is the key for employees to report any observation. If an employee takes 30 mins to report a rusted bolt or a loose wire, then that is a discouraging factor. That employee would prefer to focus on their work for those 30 mins and ensure their deliverables are completed. However, if the same can be reported in 10 seconds or less, then that encourages the employees to report and continue to do their work.

Respond quickly and completed

The degree of trust and confidence you instill in the staff directly relates to how quickly and effectively you respond to any observations that are reported. By taking such action, the problem is not only resolved, but it also motivates the personnel to come forward and report any further incidences.

Encourage employee participation

All initiatives that are seen as their contribution to the improvement of the company are favourably received by the workforce. Giving them a means to report any harmful activities, unsafe conditions or acts can motivate individuals to take part in such initiatives. As a result, the organisation as a whole receives more reports of all unsafe practices.

Incentivize for pointing at unsafe conditions

Any such reporting should be rewarded. There is no need to worry that this will cost the company more because it could motivate workers to create risky situations and report them. It has been seen that prompt action and appropriate encouragement gradually improve the safety culture, which reduces problems.

Analytics – how do they help

The figures will seem low as long as a company just pays attention to incidents and near-misses. Yet, the culture of the business will become immediately apparent if it begins to disclose all unsafe conditions and unsafe acts, regardless of how insignificant they may seem.

Unsafe conditions could be created due to a number of factors but many of them involve human actions. Leaving loose electric wires behind, not closing or tightening water faucets, not using the right tools and many more.

When all these minor issues are reported with ease and the management has a large number of them to analyze, the root causes for all safety concerns are clearly visible. Once the data is available, a number of computer tools are available to create various analytic

This helps the management in focusing in the right direction to improve the safety aspect of the organization.

The result

The culture of the business drastically alters when all little problems involving risky behaviours and situations are reported, effectively rectified, and dealt with right away. People immediately alter themselves to avoid participating in such unsafe practices and permitting such unsafe situations when they recognise that any such mistakes can be reported easily and that the supervisors and management would take good action.

It has been quantified that organisations who support such reporting and react to them have a rapid decline in incidents and near-misses

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