Safety awareness is the habit of thinking about the chance that someone can get hurt before a task is started. Having policies and procedures is not enough. You need to make sure that everyone is aware of them and that they think about safety in everything they do. Safety awareness is making safety a priority in your workplace.
Ideas to Build Safety Awareness
What does it look like when you walk into your workplace, as an employee or a customer? What are the first things you see? Is it related to production, quality, or safety?
First impressions matter. They are sending the message of what is important at that facility. Safety, quality, and productivity are all equal, so each should have equal representation when walking in.
This could be a safety mission statement, current goals, or even a safety message. Whatever it is, there should be something and it should be the same size or quantity as the other business priorities.
This is a given. When you say safety awareness, most people think of posters. Definitely, don’t discount them. They are a must-have.
To make your safety posters most effective, only hang posters that are relevant to your operations, or to your employees, and change them frequently; weekly or monthly at a minimum. If you have multiple poster locations, you can move the posters around.
Changing the posters, or the locations, increases attention to the material. Our brains like new things and the changeup will catch our attention.
Clear Markings and Signage
All those yellow lines marking off walkways, storage areas, or aisles need to be visible and not worn away. All the warning plaques need to be legible. All signage needs to be in good condition.
Many times, we put this signage up with great intentions, but then they are never replaced when needed. Just normal wear and tear, exposure to the elements, will wear them out. They should be on a regular inspection/replacement schedule.
Poorly maintained safety signage sends the message that you don’t care. It is the little things like this that matter the most when building safety awareness.
Safety should be discussed daily by the work team. This could be in the form of a pre-shift meeting or a daily toolbox talk. There are many ways to talk about safety throughout the day. The key is that the safety talk has to come from members of management other than the safety manager.
Employees follow their direct supervisors and managers more than the “safety guy.” This is why the safety message must come from them.
A great way to do this is by starting or ending every production-related conversation with safety. Let’s say your supervisor needs to tell an employee to use the forklift to move a pallet. During that conversation, they can throw in a specific reminder to operate the forklift safely; such as – keep your load low to the ground when traveling. Super easy and works amazingly well to build safety awareness.
Don’t be afraid to ask your staff about their impression of your safety program, policies, or procedures. This feedback is valuable in many ways. It tells you what is working and what isn’t working and it sends the message that you care about them and their opinion.
Setting up an employee survey can be done with a paper questionnaire, using computerized surveys (like Survey Monkey), or face-to-face with the answers recorded by another person. The choices are limitless.
If it is easy for the employees to do, they are more likely to do it.
Include employees in every aspect of your safety program; from development to implementation, to review. Understand that including them in the process goes a long way in building safety awareness.
Proactive Safety Goals
Most safety goals are reactive, based on the number of incidents. Proactive goals focus more on safety behaviors and stopping the causes of incidents. When you get your staff focused on a specific safety goal, such as improving housekeeping in an area, you are building safety awareness.
PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
This should always be the last thing to consider. You might also be thinking the PPE is a policy thing and not an awareness thing. However, when walking into a facility where the use of PPE is prevalent, the level of safety awareness at that facility is usually above average.
The act of having to put on safety gear prior to doing the task or walking into an area heightens the level of safety.
8 Expert Situational Awareness Safety Tips for the Workplace
Adopt a structured situational awareness framework
Everyone has a slightly different approach to staying aware, with unique ways of collecting and processing information. But in the workplace, you need your entire team to operate in agreement. A company’s situational intelligence depends on the ability to understand, detect, and mitigate risks in a consistent fashion.
Evaluate what will be a better fit for your organization’s needs, and incorporate it into situational awareness training so your employees have practice with the method.
Life is full of distractions. Most of us have long to-do lists, notifications beeping all day long, and the constant stimuli of people interacting with us. Distractions might seem like a minor annoyance, but they can be a significant hazard in the workplace. If you make a mistake working on a spreadsheet because you’re multitasking, it could have serious consequences for business operations. Ideally, you recognize the mistake in time to reload the file. However, power tools and heavy equipment don’t have an undo button.
Here are a few ways to promote focus in the workplace:
Limit electronic device usage
Watch for fatigue
How many times have you started the day more tired than usual, compensating with an extra cup of coffee? It might seem harmless, but fatigue is a serious hazard that can cause slower reaction times, impaired judgment, and difficulty concentrating.
Even if workers are getting 7 or more hours of sleep per night, other environmental factors can have an impact. Stress, heat, and overexertion—both physical and mental—can all lead to fatigue. At best, fatigue can lead to near misses that wake you right up. At worst, it can cause accidents involving physical and/or financial damages.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy for someone to assess their own level of fatigue. Train your team to recognize the signs in their coworkers and know when someone isn’t fit to be working. Additionally, it’s important to frame the process as safety-oriented, rather than disciplinary. No one wants to get their friend in trouble, but they wouldn’t hesitate to protect their friends from getting hurt.
One of the primary components of risk awareness is identifying subtle hazards. Spotting and managing the little things can be the key to preventing a disaster.
No one is more familiar with your workplace than your employees. They know the space, their coworkers’ tendencies and body language, and the nuances of what’s going on around them. They will be more easily able to spot when something is wrong. Empower your frontline workers to share their gut feelings and speak up when something seems off. It’s better to investigate a potential risk and discover it was nothing than to ignore it and let it grow into a serious hazard.
Encourage clear and thorough communication
When you do the same task day after day, it can be easy to get complacent. You may assume your coworkers know what’s going on, confident that they’re aware of the same safety hazards and risks as you are.
Well, you know what they say about assumptions. Teach your employees to communicate clearly and thoroughly, no matter how routine things might seem. Verbally calling out hazards makes sure everyone is cognizant of the situation, taking it seriously, and working to keep each other safe.
Use visual and auditory signaling devices in loud and fast-paced environments, the details of conversations or instructions can get lost. Complement verbal communication with visual and auditory signaling, especially when it highlights a potential hazard.
Some common examples of signals that promote situational awareness:
Flashing lights on heavy machinery when it’s in operation
Clear, loud beeping when vehicles such as trucks or forklifts are backing up
Alarms when doors aren’t securely closed
Brightly colored barriers, cones, or fences around non-obvious hazards like oil slicks, ice, or chemical spills
Have an exit strategy
Per OSHA requirements, every worksite has clear directions to emergency exits. And your company probably runs fire drills to ensure everyone knows how to safely get out of the building.
However, an exit strategy is more than simply identifying a door or path to safety. In many cases, it’s having a plan of action if something goes wrong. For example, if you’re operating heavy equipment and it malfunctions, what steps do you take to protect yourself and your coworkers? How do you shut it down and alert the right contacts? And how do you exit the area if necessary?
Situational awareness focuses on detecting and understanding potential hazards. Not every problem can be avoided, though, and you always need an exit strategy. Risk intelligence bridges this gap. It comprises a continuous stream of planning from situational awareness and hazard prevention to evaluating realistic outcomes and responding to environmental dangers.
Practice and reinforce situational awareness
Most importantly, you need to reinforce situational awareness safety tips until they become second nature. It’s easy to make the right decision when you’re sitting in a peaceful environment, discussing your options. But when faced with a rapidly evolving threat, your employees need to be able to act on instinct to protect their personal safety.
Make situational awareness a monthly safety topic, both as a focused item and as a complement to other relevant discussions. Perform periodic situational awareness training and use tabletop exercises to help employees practice their skills. Provide thorough feedback throughout the process, promoting a vigilant and proactive safety culture in the workplace.
6 Ways to Promote Workplace Safety Awareness
Have Markings and Signage
Clear markings and signage on equipment, walkways, storage areas, and more are among the most important tactics for promoting safety awareness. For example, signs can be used to instruct employees on how to use equipment properly. Additionally, floor and wall markings can show employees where certain items or equipment should be stored. Clear markings and signage are a subconscious reminder to employees of safety protocol and expectations.
Create Posters that Display Safety Policies
Posters and banners are probably one of the first things you think about when it comes to promoting safety awareness. Posters can be a great way to remind employees of important safety protocols. You should only put up posters relevant to your operations and employees. To increase employee attention to posters, try moving them or changing them every week or so.
Have Regular Safety Talks
Safety should be a part of regular discussions in the workplace. Safety discussions are an important way to set clear expectations for safety. There are many ways to do this, from having a daily pre-shift safety meeting to doing quarterly safety presentations. Find something that fits your company’s industry and work.
Provide Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Regularly
Having to put on safety gear before performing a task heightens the level and awareness of safety in the workplace. Providing the appropriate PPE is also an effective way to improve compliance.
Involve Employees in the Development and Implementation of Safety Protocol
Involving employees in the process of developing a safety program is a great way to increase safety awareness. They are the people on the front lines of the job, and they may be able to point out problem areas much easier than someone looking from the outside in. Employees are also more likely to follow safety regulations that they had some part in creating.
Use Creative Tactics to Introduce Safety Measures
Introducing safety protocols in a typical presentation style can get boring and repetitive for employers and employees. Create a safety scavenger hunt where employees are split up into teams and have to read clues to piece together a safety policy. Additionally, try hosting a workplace safety trivia session with prizes for the employees that answer questions correctly.
Promoting safety awareness can be a very taxing and overwhelming activity, but it is crucial for maintaining and improving the safety of your workplace. Try one tip at a time to make it easier.