Scenario: You see a co-worker cut corners in an unsafe manner to finish a job faster. What do you do?

Do you report it or do you ignore it?

A lot of people struggle with this question. Most of us find it difficult to find the right level of concern at the workplace. Where does being safety-minded stop and being a tattletale begin?

Charles Dobbin and Levitt-Safety

For a clearer picture, we spoke with Charles Dobbin, the Regional Service Manager for Levitt-Safety in Alberta.

Between service technicians, supervisors, managers and administrators, Charles is responsible for the safety of over 100 Levitt-Safety employees each day.

Before joining Levitt-Safety nine years ago, Charles worked in industrial firefighting. It’s pretty safe to say that safety has always been a focus in Charles’ career.

All of this makes him a perfect candidate to answer the question “when is it your responsibility to speak up and how can you encourage a positive safety culture at work?”

Where and when do people try to cut corners at work?

Everywhere at any time. And, it’s in every facet and scope of work.

It could be anything, like:

  • not properly tying off while working at heights
  • not following exact lockout/tagout procedures
  • sloppily cleaning up a chemical spill, or
  • failing to wear the correct PPE.

There are countless ways that a worker can put themselves and others at danger while on the job.

How do you break the bad habits?

Bad habits generally start at the top. It’s often the individuals who lead the team who are also the ones to lead bad habits.

New hires look up to their leaders to understand how they should behave in their new work environment. When they witness poor habits, they’re likely to follow suit.

It’s essential to hold every single member of a team accountable for their actions, regardless of their seniority.

man standing between building and scaffolding

Why do dangerous incidents go unreported?

The biggest reason incidences go unreported is people think they’ll get in trouble. This is also the biggest misconception.

Often workers fear that there will be repercussions for reporting, when in fact it’s much worse if they don’t say anything at all.

In reality, we only discipline for not reporting because it could lead to someone getting hurt.

What’s the difference between telling vs. tattling?

Generally, you can determine whether something is worthwhile reporting if it aligns with this thought: “I’d hate to tell on them, but I’d hate it, even more, to see them get hurt.”

Here are some ways you can separate telling from tattling:

  • Telling is something you do when you’re trying to keep others safe.
  • Tattling is when you’re trying to get others in trouble.
  • Telling is required when someone is at risk of danger.
  • Tattlingis when they’re not.
  • Telling is reporting a problem when there’s a sense of urgency.
  • Tattling happens when you’re instigating problems.

Pointing fingers

How do you encourage reporting?

We don’t want to point fingers. We want to improve our safety culture.

We would rather have more recorded near-misses and zero incidents than the other way around.

At Levitt-Safety, we encourage everyone to report anything they recognize to be potentially dangerous.

When in doubt, make mention of it.

Even if nothing bad happened this time around, it doesn’t mean that the next time around the person will be as lucky.

How do you maintain a positive safety culture with your team?

We have a lot of meetings to maintain our safety culture.

One of our largest customers once asked me why I insist on doing weekly safety meetings. I told them that we’ve had zero accidents because of these meetings. He didn’t have much to say after that.

By hosting regular meetings, your team can openly communicate issues they’re experiencing. This empowers them to work through it together to find a solution that works for everyone.

What’s your advice to new hires?

Ask lots of questions.

Take the time to do a task the right way. A lot of new employees try to race through their onboarding to get started with their work, but there’s a reason why the training is required.

We would much rather see new employees take extra time and be trained properly. That’s why the time is given.

Finally, what’s your advice for the scenario at the beginning?

If you see something, say something.

One slip, trip or spill could result in serious injuries. And, it doesn’t stop there. The ripple effect of one hazard’s consequences can have dangerous implications on everyone else.

Looking for ideas on how you can improve your safety culture? Be sure to check out these eight simple tips.

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Julie McFater

Director of Marketing

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