Effectively keeping your employees safe and productive

By: Holly Pups

Publication: Employee Safety Management Today

Date Posted: 12/01/2021

Working as a cohesive team leadshelps prevent future accidents.

Supervisors play a vital role in keeping their employees both safe and productive. There are times, though, when supervisors and safety management seem to be working towards different goals. By working together, they can set employees up for success by working safely and efficiently.

Supervisors have many responsibilities. They manage the day-to-day operations, coordinate with management to ensure goals are met, and handle the needs of employees. They often work alongside their employees and know the jobs inside and out. Supervisors have a hand in setting the mood in the workplace and can control the sense of urgency to meet deadlines.

A maintenance supervisor installed an access platform without guardrails at what he perceived as an arbitrary height — 50.5 inches. During a routine inspection, the safety team identified the platform as a fall hazard and angered the supervisor by requiring him to lower the platform or install guardrails. This introduced an unexpected cost with additional time and effort needed to correct the situation. Upfront communication between the supervisor and the safety team before similar changes to the work environment can avoid a similar situation.

Safety requirements add additional expectations that the supervisor must meet that can often seem overwhelming and unnecessary. When deadlines are approaching, supervisors may ignore items like accident investigations or employee complaints. This can be true when there is a disconnect between the safety department and supervisors where neither side fully understands the other.

The safety department is responsible for the overall programs and needs ongoing support from leadership. To build a broad base of support, safety departments should create programs with employee and supervisor input that address inspections and audits for compliance and update them as needed. Provide training for supervisors on programs such as accident reporting, hazard identification, and proper use of personal protective equipment.

Ensure supervisors are responsible for implementing the safety programs in their departments. For example, many companies have a single person overseeing the facility’s safety, so it’s not possible for them to be everywhere. That is where supervisors come in as they are with their employees daily and are familiar with the processes. Supervisors might be involved in training employees on the machines and equipment, updating safety procedures for process changes, and supporting and leading accident investigations.

Accident investigations completed by a supervisor or safety management alone, without employee involvement, are more likely to fail to prevent similar accidents from happening again. A supervisor may not get down to the root cause and instead simply blame the employee. Safety may impose additional steps that work on paper but are not practical for the impacted employees.

Working as a cohesive team leads to a corrective and preventative action that helps prevent future accidents. Employees see that the company is working to protect them, which helps increase morale leading to fewer accidents and less turnover. Working together for the greater good of employees and the company saves time, effort, money, and lives.

About the author
Holly Pups

Holly specializes in workplace safety topics including warehousing, pharmaceuticals, public sector, and plastics manufacturing.

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