Gretchen L. Watson, Ph.D.

Extraordinary People

Three Ways to Boost Workplace Safety

Safety in the workplace refers to more than the avoidance of physical injuries.

Posted Apr 25, 2017

How do you define safety in the workplace? Not all industries require a person’s life to be put on the line. Does that mean workplace safety does not apply to those jobs? There are many other types of safety incidents aside from physical injury.

To accountants and bankers, safety is tied to numerical accuracy; to educators, safety could mean taking care to protect the curiosity of young people; in healthcare, safety has a lot to do with creating habits that affect those who receive care (the patients) more so than those who deliver care (the employees). As such, safety is also about minimizing human error.

Safety expert Dr. Lucien Leape is renown for having once said: 

Incompetent people are, at most, 1% of the problem. The other 99% are good people trying to do a good job who make very simple mistakes and it’s the processes that set them up to make these mistakes.

Everyone makes mistakes, but there are things that we can do to minimize their occurrence. 

Safety training is important, but it’s only as effective as the employees are engaged—are willing to go the extra mile, take personal ownership for the quality of their work, and are proud of their jobs.

Highly engaged employees are more likely to take error prevention practices seriously, and improving employee engagement is often the most effective way to ensure processes don’t set people up for failure. This is true whether you are trying to avoid physical injuries or other costly errors.

Three ways to improve employee engagement are to:

  1. Let employees know their contribution is meaningful
  2. Recognize people for a job well done
  3. Treat everyone with dignity and respect

Safety isn’t just about providing training. It involves keeping employees happy, healthy, and motivated.

No matter how safety is defined in your organization, it cannot be achieved unless employees are committed and involved.