Have you ever thought how much simpler life would be if those in charge of the workplace could just “spit it out”, in plain, concise words, so that their employees totally understand what they are expected to do, and that they are expected to perform in the safest manner possible? Many times, managers will beat around the bush to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. Workers may allow anger issues to fester rather than openly talk about an issue and risk confrontation. Direct communication isn’t always easy to express, because too many of us try to be “politically correct.”
Have you noticed how many people are in your workplace, yet you rarely interact with them? Everyone has different experiences from various workplaces and feels that their way is probably the right way. That is where communication is so important. Get acquainted with co-workers; you may be surprised how much you can learn from them, or teach them. Listen to your supervisor tell a group what he wants them to do, and then watch and see how many got that message or interpreted it in different ways.
Today, I noticed an article in the Billings Gazette about the lack of a culture of safety. Wyoming’s state occupational epidemiologist, Timothy Ryan, said in a memo to Governor Mead, dated December 19, 2011, and released Tuesday by the governor’s office, that the lack of a “culture of safety” is the common theme tying together the state’s high rate of workplace deaths. “Safety occurs as an afterthought,” Ryan stated. In interviews with employees around the state, Ryan was told a typical work environment included:
- A communication breakdown regarding safety between upper management, supervisors and employees.
- A lack of safety training enforcement.
- Cases in which employees were told to “get the job done,” despite a failure to enforce safety rules.
- A wide range of safety standards at any one site.
More than 85 per cent of fatality reports show that workplace safety procedures weren’t followed, and the number neared 100 per cent in the oil and gas industry. Ryan’s report also showed that during the past decade, an average of one worker died every 10 days in the state. Ryan reviewed 17 years of workplace fatality data, covering 1992 to 2008, fatality cases reports, and conversations with employees in the state’s major industries. Wyoming’s workplace death rate has ranked first or second among U.S. states since 2001, except when it ranked fourth in 2009.
Communication between workers and their supervisors or trainers can literally mean the difference between life, injury, or death. If employees are trained by the rules, but the rules are broken, there has been a lack of communication and supervision. When workers are told to rush through a job, with no enforcement of safety rules, it would seem that the bottom dollar line is more important than the employees. If safety standards are ignored at the worksite, the message either wasn’t stated in the correct way, or the workers failed to understand the safety message.
Sometimes workers will find that the persons they fear talking to because of repercussion may actually be the one they need to confide in. If safety is compromised, and nothing is done about it, the man or woman at the top can see that it is corrected. Document your concerns and see if things improve after communicating with the person you hope will listen.