ABC Keystone Safety Blog

Safety Update: Company Safety Policies and the Importance of Adherence

BY: KEVIN KEITH, DIRECTOR OF SAFETY SERVICES, ABC KEYSTONE

Safety professionals understand the importance of having effective written safety plans. An effective written plan helps alleviate any misunderstandings regarding the expectations necessary to protect employees performing work tasks.

Unfortunately, all too often, a written plan is created, but adherence to the plan falters. There is nothing more damaging to a company than non-compliance with company policies. Non-compliance quickly creates an environment that devolves into a “us against them” way of thinking. Cliques begin to form. Morale can erode, and inconsistencies form that open companies up to liability issues.

In my career, I have seen it all too often. Policies are written, and the lack of adherence and accountability quickly lead to a poor company culture. Many employers seem to think that if a policy is written, workers will adhere to it on their own.

This is not the case. Workers will resist many policies based on personal experiences, past work experiences or how they work at home. The thinking, “it must be safe the way that I do it because it has never been a problem before,” becomes the toughest part of overcoming non-compliance issues.

People, in general, seek out others that agree with their way of thinking because it supports their beliefs and provides validation to their thoughts. This creates the development of cliques. These individuals start to support each other and resist management. They start to look out for each other and develop a plan that they will only adhere to policies when management is around. “Only perform when you have to” becomes the way of thinking. Direct supervisors can propagate these kinds of actions in that they were once a part of the group.

The supervisor finds it hard to enforce company policy, because they, too, had issues with many of the of the written policies and still want to maintain relationships with their co-workers. All too often, safety falls prey to this kind of thinking and enforcement. The ripple effects of the non-compliance can have a significant impact on the company in many areas other than safety.

Policies, if they are going to be effective, must be well thought out and planned. Involving the entire workforce seems to help in breaking the non-compliance circle. If workers fully understand the purpose behind the policy, adherence will improve. That still does not mean that it will be perfect.

The direct supervisor must address non-compliance. Often, I have seen that the findings of an incident investigation indicate that the injured worker did not adhere to an existing company policy. Is this the fault of the injured worker? Many times, in digging deeper, one will find that there is a non-compliance issue across the board. The problem stems more from supervision, in that supervisors allow the behaviors to continue without addressing the compliance issues quickly and consistently. Policies should be consistently enforced and without prejudice. If policies re not adhered to, then there is no policy. The policy is just words on paper that will have no impact on safety in the workplace.

Effective safety requires a lot of work that includes communication and supervision. Safety in the workplace must be tended to and nurtured to improve the overall safety performance. Educating supervisors and having them understand the importance of adherence in company policies will go a long way to improving your company’s overall performance.

Visit abckeystone.org to review our upcoming education and safety training classes. If you have additional questions regarding your safety policies, please feel free to contact Kevin Keith, Director of Safety Services, to discuss your concerns or issues.

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Posted July 15, 2021