Force Creates Resistance

Newtons Cradle

Force creates resistance. Whether it’s your spouse, your kids or safety in the workplace; Newton’s Third Law applies. And since it’s NATURAL LAW; like a plant growing towards the sun, there’s no arguing with it… as much as our ego might like to.

Yet we see it all the time, one forcing their views or agenda on another. Like the “Safety Officer” marching onto the job site and “enforcing the rules” and wondering why compliance is substandard.

After working with hundreds of organisations to develop and implement their Safety Management Systems, I typically see two kinds of scenarios:

  1. Those that implement safety systems gracefully and efficiently
  2. Those who don’t; months and years later they are still struggling

This difference is simple. Those that are successful recognize that Safety Management is largely people management.

Top 5 Tips to Reduce or Eliminate Employee Resistance to your Workplace Safety (or any other) Initiatives:

  1. Understand that force WILL create resistance, whether you see it externally in a person or not. Instead of calling it “Safety Rules”, use the term “Safety Agreements” instead. “These are the critical items we agree on as our collective responsibility to ensure we all go home safe to our families at the end of the day. i.e. We agree that we will report hazards and near misses, we agree that we will use fall protection when working at heights etc”.
  2. Involve employees in key safety initiatives and decisions. Everyone wants to have a say in changes that will affect them. Not only is it a legal requirement in most jurisdictions, it becomes “their idea”, critical for ownership and buy-in. Bonus: employees that do the work or who will be most effected by changes tend to have the best ideas!
  3. If it’s not practical to involve employees, as when a new worker joins an organization with a fully implemented Safety Management System, be sure to take the time to explain the “WHY” in a way that connects their heart to their head. “The reason why we have these “safety agreements” is because it will not be on my watch that I’m calling your family that your not coming home tonight… oh… and plus… its the law in this province.”
  4. If possible, give employees a choice. Do you prefer to wear the yellow safety glasses or the blue ones? Would you like the ear plugs or muffs? Most important: the fundamental need of every human being is to feel significant…to know that they matter. Communicate your safety standards and requirements to employees in a manner that emphasizes their sense of self value and importance. They might not like the “rule” but they will love (whether they let on or not) and respond to your sincere care and concern for their well-being.

For me, Workplace Safety is simply a vehicle to foster more respect for people and reverence for life… something that I see much of the world starving for.

As a bonus, a by-product of better safety management is typically a happier workforce and a more profitable and sustainable business.

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