Prioritizing Workplace Safety – What if Workers themselves Resist or Reject the Precautions? | DCR Workforce Blog

Prioritizing Workplace Safety – What if Workers themselves Resist or Reject the Precautions?

Safety is really about attitude. Not everyone wants to wear that helmet or mask, those gloves and definitely not that protective clothing! They are confident in their abilities to play with fire, acids or whatever it is that they are supposed to need protection from, like wimps! These attitudes are basically habits formed over the years and they are very hard to unlearn. Everyday functioning and task management are performed as habitual or goal-directed actions and employers need to ensure that such habits do not make a mockery of their workplace safety measures. It must be remembered that it  is not possible to break a habit easily, without goal-directed behavior.

So, when imparting occupational health and safety training to workers, it is not sufficient if employers get them to learn how to break their habitual rejection of protective gear and disregard for cautious handling of the tasks at hand.  Such workers may require behavioral therapy to change their old ways of doing things and learn new ways which ensure that they adopt all the safety precautions and use the safety gear provided to them, when on the job.

Best Practices to Ensure Safety as a Discipline:

The dictionary definition describes discipline as the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.

Discipline is definitely not over-rated as an essential ingredient in having someone follow instructions without question or demur; but punishment need not be something offensive.  However, it must be applied correctly if we want to avoid making the person feel compelled to disobey, just to prove a point. Let us look at some best practices in inculcating discipline and acceptance of safety precautions you can out in place, to ensure that your workers stay safe:

  • Communicate the safety rules to the workers, along with the penalties that would be incurred, in case of non-compliance.
  • Be consistent in enforcing your disciplinary measures when dealing with any violations, and treat all offenders the same.
  • Make sure that penalties are progressive and graded according to the severity of the offence. Ensure that genuine slip-ups, minor aberrations and first offences are not subjected to the harsh penalties deserved by serious or repeat violations.
  • A safety program can work effectively when it is taken seriously when there is no incident to trigger concern or
  • Avoid liability for negligence, by keeping all the safety gear in good repair and ready for use at all times.
  • Remember not to punish a worker for refusing to wear safety gear which is not of the right quality.
  • Make the work environment safe and then, enforce the safety rules consistently.
  • Provide ongoing training and guidance to dissuade the workers who resist the rules and be ready to go by the rule book and move from oral warnings to written memos and progress all the way to the suspensions and terminations; until you have all the workers toeing the line.
  • Conduct regular inspections and document all findings – without waiting for an accident to happen before you wake up to the dangers of non-compliance with the safety regulations and requirements.
  • Document all safety-related disciplinary actions.
  • Display the required safety precautions at the site of a task, in words and pictures, as a reminder.
  • Re-train all violators and mentor them until they are disciplined and become compliant.
  • Set safe workplace policies which enforce safety precautions like no alcohol consumption on the job and enforce them very strictly. Contravening the policy need not necessarily mean dismissal, but involve a reasonably strong penalty.
  • Such disciplinary action should be supplemented by further training to reinforce the right behavior.
  • Review your safety precautions periodically to check if you can do anything differently to ensure the safety of your workers.
  • Be ready to prove that you run an effective safety program, by having documentary evidence that your workplace has documented safety rules and procedures; proof that the workers were trained; and evidence that you set up the necessary systems to monitor and enforce the safety program, and employ disciplinary measures to curb unsafe behavior patterns.

In the day-to-day rush of frenetic activity and the overwhelming need to get things done, let neither the supervisors nor the workers forget the importance of a safe working environment and the need to stay safe!

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.