You see a friend at work cut a corner to get the job done quicker. Nothing bad happens, but it leaves you feeling uneasy. You let them know that what they just did was unsafe but they brush it off as if it’s no big deal. You wonder whether it’s worthwhile reporting the incident to your supervisor, but you’re friends with the guy – you’d hate to get him in trouble. What do you do?
Today we’re discussing how you can remove the stigma around reporting: what’s the difference between telling vs. tattling, when is it your responsibility to speak up and how can you encourage a positive safety culture at work?
I sat down with Charles Dobbin, Regional Service Manager for Alberta, to get his advice. Between service technicians, supervisors, manages and admins, Charles is responsible to see that over 100 Levitt-Safety employees are working safely each day. Prior to joining Levitt-Safety nine years ago, he worked in industrial firefighting. It’s pretty safe to say that safety has always been a huge focus of Charles’ career.
Here’s what you need to know:
Where and when do people try to cut corners at work?
In short, everywhere at any time. And, it’s in every facet and scope of work. Whether it’s not properly tying off while working at heights, not following exact lockout/tag out 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?
In Charles’ experience, bad habits generally “start at the top”. This means that 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. For this reason, it’s essential to hold every single member of a team accountable for their actions, regardless of their seniority.
Why do dangerous incidents go unreported?
Charles recognizes the biggest reason why incidences go unreported: people think they’ll get in trouble. This is also the biggest misconception. He explains, “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 decipher the difference between telling and 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. Tattling is when they’re not.
- Telling is reporting a problem when there’s a sense of urgency. Tattling happens when you’re instigating problems.
How do you encourage reporting?
A positive safety culture is the foundation for a progressive reporting environment. As Charles explains, “The intent isn’t to point fingers; it’s to improve our safety culture. We 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. Charles’ rule of thumb is 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?
Charles explains, “We have a lot of meetings. One of our largest customers once asked me why I insist on doing weekly safety meetings. I told them that because of these meetings, we’ve had zero accidents. He didn’t have much to say after that!” Hosting regular meetings allows your team to openly communicate issues they’re experiencing and allows them to work through it together. In Charles’ opinion, it puts everyone at ease. He explains, “When you get it all out on the table you quickly find out that other people are having the same issues. You’d be surprised at how quickly this helps resolve them.”
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. Charles says, “We much rather see new employees take the 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.