You know safety is important. But, pointing out a dangerous situation at work can be tricky. You don’t want to look like you are kissing up, being a Nervous Nellie or trying to cause trouble.
Although the idea of bringing up a problem may be intimidating, a preventable tragedy is far worse. If you aren’t sure where to begin, use these five tips as a guide.
1. Know How to Report
Before approaching your boss, think back to your safety training. Most companies outline proper reporting procedures as part of the orientation process. You may need to submit a form or follow a chain of command. Unfortunately, some organizations aren’t as clear as others. If this is the case, start by discussing the matter with your immediate supervisor. Then, if nothing happens, move up to a safety manager or director. Of course, if someone is in immediate danger, don’t worry about the rules. Act quickly and ask for help from anyone standing nearby.
2. Do Your Homework
Frequently mentioning safety concerns that aren’t truly safety concerns will waste time and annoy your supervisors. Be sure you know what you are talking about. Refer to your safety materials, double-check your facts using the OHSA website or discuss the matter with colleagues. If you happen to be wrong, be willing to admit your error.
3. Don’t Blame, Complain or Criticize
Your main goal is to keep everyone safe, not to catch others making mistakes. Nevertheless, when you point out a problem, some people may automatically become defensive. Try to approach issues as, “I’m worried about this, because someone may be hurt,” rather than, “This person isn’t following the rules, so if something bad happens, it’s all their fault.”
4. Suggest a Solution
Staying positive is one of the best ways get others to cooperate. Another smart strategy is to approach your manager with a solution already in mind. For example, if a machine is missing safety guards, you could offer to contact the proper department to order new ones.
5. Buddy Up
Bringing up an issue on your own can make you feel vulnerable. However, chances are, someone else has noticed the problem, too. Ask around. You may be surprised how many people are willing to step up once they discover they won’t be alone. Now, you are improving your physical working conditions and building trust.
What If Management Ignores You?
Hopefully, your boss will not only address the problem, but also thank you for your efforts. Sadly, life often doesn’t work this way. If your supervisors are dismissive or even rude, recognize you have other options. Under federal law, OHSA guarantees a safe workplace. And, you have the right to speak up without fear of retaliation. If you believe you need to talk to someone outside your organization about a safety situation, contact your local OHSA office.
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