Safety Compliance: 4 Strategies to Get Your Employees on Board

Even when you think you've checked all the right boxes regarding safety compliance, there's one crucial element you may be neglecting: your employees. Not even the latest and greatest PPE will protect them if they aren't willing to wear it consistently and compliantly. Having a system in place for ensuring that your employees understand and adhere to work safety requirements is critical to your organization's ability to meet OSHA regulations and safeguard against risk.

Here are 4 ways to make sure your employees follow your safety program as intended.

1. Provide Effective Training
A strong training program should be your starting point for gaining employee buy-in. Training is specifically required in many OSHA standards, but that's just one reason to do it. Employees can't comply with your programs if they don't know how, and training is the key to bridging the gap between regulations on paper and in practice.

It's imperative that you instruct employees when they need to wear PPE, how to wear it properly, how to inspect it, how to store and care for it, and how to dispose of it properly. Demonstrating to employees using real equipment and having them replicate the proper procedures will be more effective than any lecture or video.

You should also be constantly evaluating your training's effectiveness by assessing your employees' knowledge and observing their work practices. If you notice gaps, that's a sign that a refresher or retraining might be in order. It's a good idea to retrain your employees whenever new equipment, new hazards, or new tasks are introduced to the work environment.

2. Create and Enforce Clear Policies
Effective and clearly-communicated safety policies with a matching disciplinary program are crucial to any safety program. If your employees don't know what's expected of them, you can't fault them for making mistakes.

Your disciplinary policies need to be communicated and enforced consistently. The most effective disciplinary programs tend to be accumulative, with a first offense or a minor infraction earning a mild consequence such as a verbal warning, while severe or repeated disregard for safety can lead to consequences up to and including termination. Be careful, though, that your disciplinary programs don't retaliate against employees for reporting injuries and hazards. They should be focused on behaviors (e.g., not wearing required PPE) rather than outcomes (e.g., getting injured).

3. Engage Employees
A strong safety program has open lines of communication between employees and managers. If you only address safety through a punishment-based model, employees may become afraid to raise safety concerns or ask questions. They are the ones who will notice and encounter hazards before anyone else, so if they know they can raise concerns without fear of reprisal, your workplace will be a safer place for everyone.

It's tempting to label a non-compliant employee as lazy or disobedient and proceed to disciplinary action. However, it's far more productive (and will foster a better relationship with your workers) to consider other reasons an employee might not be adhering to your safety rules. Is their PPE uncomfortable? Does it get in the way of their work flow? Effective listening will yield a more successful program, because it will incorporate valuable employee insights.

You can also engage and involve your workers in selection and purchasing decisions for PPE and other safety equipment. If your workers have a hand in picking out their own PPE, it's more likely that they'll wear it consistently and compliantly.

4. Secure Supervisor Support
Supervisor buy-in is another critical piece of employee compliance. As the most frequent and immediate point of contact with management, supervisors have an enormous impact on how employees perceive the importance of safety in the workplace. If supervisors send a message that safety doesn't matter or don't comply themselves, employees will follow suit.

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