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Communication is Key
It is likely that at some point in your journey, you have heard someone use a term like "hazard", "dangerous", or "unsafe" when describing a condition or environment in the workplace. Possibly you can think of an example in your own workplace, that is an unsafe working condition that has been there for as long as you can remember?
Unsafe working conditions exist, some noticeable, some that are not - depending on whom you ask. Because these conditions exist, there are specific processes that need to be in place to not only identify them but to resolve them, before an injury occurs.
Before we go any further, it needs to be stated that no one goes to work with the goal of getting hurt. Additionally, the goal of an employer is not to create an environment in the workplace that purposes injure an employee. The goal is and always needs to be, that all employees make it home safely each and every day.
To help achieve the goal of making it home safely each and every day, employees and employers alike need to be diligent in continuously improving their workplace, to identify and then eliminate hazards, or dangerous working conditions. To help achieve this goal, communication is key.
So, what should you do, if you identify an unsafe working condition in your workplace? Speak up!
Speaking up is important. If you identify an unsafe working condition, you need to say something, but be specific. Walking up to your supervisor and saying "there's an unsafe working condition in bay 2" will not likely get the response required to fix the concern.
Instead, use specific language that clearly communicates the unsafe working condition, so something can be done about it - this could be "there are a number of pallets blocking the emergency exit by bay 2 that we need to clean up, so the emergency exit can be accessed safely when required."
There are four reasons why standing up and speaking out is so important:
1) Silence is deemed approval.
2) The greater good should be the priority.
3) No one else may realize the issue.
4) You may not be alone in your concerns.
One of the greatest challenges when creating a safe workplace is overcoming silence. Oftentimes, an unsafe working condition can exist, but no one says anything about it. This can be out of fear of repercussion, or simply being told it's not a big deal and it's always been that way. Employees, you need to break your silence!
For the safety leaders out there, one of the fastest ways to learn of any unsafe working conditions that your team possibly has identified is to ask. Ask your team if a condition or process exists that is putting them at risk, even if it is small. And when given an answer, follow up on it. Be actively engaged in resolving the issue, to prevent an injury. The greater good for everyone needs to be the priority.
The next step is action. After you have identified an unsafe working condition, something needs to be done to resolve it. This could be simply moving the pallets that are blocking the emergency exit. Or, if a more technical solution is required, your supervisor, or possibly your health and safety committee will be required to come up with a more permanent solution to prevent this from reoccurring.
When a new process is integrated into the workplace, it is crucial that the process is clearly communicated to all workers, so everyone understands what is required of them.
All employees, regardless of their title, need to be diligent in communicating unsafe working conditions to help achieve the ultimate goal. Do not identify the unsafe condition and then think to yourself "not my job" and walk by.
There will be situations where workers are isolated, or work alone, such as professional drivers completing long trips on the highway. Although they may be alone, hazards still exist, and these hazards need to be identified, and something needs to be said so a resolution can take place.
Finally, it is likely that you, as an employee, are not alone in questioning why the ongoing unsafe work condition exists. Communication is key because when one voices a concern, others can participate too. Again, the ultimate goal is to help ensure all workers make it home safely.
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Thank you again Dan for joining me on the Truck Focus Podcast today, I really appreciate your time!
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