Employee Engagement Must Be More Than a Safety Committee

Yes, you read that title right. Engaging employees doesn’t always have to be formal. There are more ways to encourage engagement other than recruiting volunteers on safety committees, attending safety trainings, and following safety procedures.

Don’t get me wrong, these are all essential, but they aren’t the only strategy you should employ. Let’s discuss the reasons why, and some ideas of how, to engage employees beyond the formal and traditional ways.

Why You Shouldn’t Just Engage Employees Formally

There are two main reasons why you should reach beyond formal engagement. The first is that there are a limited number of employees who have the opportunity to engage in formal ways. Not everyone can be part of the safety committee because having too many members would be counter-productive, the schedule and slots for training are few, and simply following safety procedures isn’t a good enough indicator of engagement.

The truth is, while employees may follow procedures, they may not be proactive in developing a work culture that actually values safety.

On the other hand, informal employee engagement can be done with every employee. It might take up only a few minutes a week but even short informal engagements help make sure that each and every employee is consulted, asked for suggestions, and feels heard.

Another important reason why to engage employees informally is because its more subtle than formal engagement. Because informal engagement takes way less time and energy, they may not even know that they’re already participating. They won’t notice that when these short, easy actions happen routinely that it will help them become a habit. Hence, building an impressive safety culture throughout the entire company.

Ideas for Informal Employee Engagement

Now let’s discuss some ways to engage employees informally. One idea that you can try, which is something I’ve used countless times, is short casual talks in the break room. Try bringing over relevant documents and waiting for someone to come in. Talk to them about the problem at hand and consult them about how they think the company should fix it.

Another idea that you can try is creating temporary groups to solve a specific problem. The members of this temporary group shouldn’t be the current members of the official safety committee. This way, more employees can be engaged in safety.

But regardless if it’s an individual or a group that you’ll be engaging, keep in mind that your goal is to get them to collaborate. Make them feel invested in safety. So that, they’ll be proactive and engage more even if you don’t ask them to.

Take Action

Employee engagement shouldn’t always be done in formal ways. Because it allows more employees to collaborate and get them to actively participate without them noticing.

Employee Engagement Must Be More Than a Safety Committee

Safety Brye: [00:00:00] Can you count on one hand all the ways your employees participate in your safety program? Maybe it's just two fingers, like it's probably safety committee and safety training. Well, it is time to expand your thinking on how to engage your workforce and drive a safety culture. Because engagement is more than just a safety committee, my friends.

Let's get to it.

Hey there, safety friends. Welcome to the Safety Geek Podcast. I'm Brye Sargent CSP and 20 year Safety Professional. After spending years training safety leaders across the globe for a large corporation and creating safety programs from the ground up over and over again. I am now sharing my processes and strategies with you.

At the Safety Geek, you will learn how to manage an effective safety program that increases your management support, and employee engagement,

[00:01:00] all the while helping you elevate your position and move up in your career. If you're ready to step into the role of a safety influencer and leader, you're in the right place.

Let's get to it.

Hello. Hello. Hello, safety friend. How are you doing? And welcome to Q2 of 2003. We are already in April. Can you believe that? So tell me, how are your goals doing? Did you already ditch your resolution? Or your word of the year. I will tell you, I've pretty much ditched my word of the year. I keep thinking to myself, I need to go back to it

my word of the year was health and I just have not been eating healthy. So I definitely need to get back to that. But I'm wondering how you're doing, you know, can you believe it's April? It's just time just flies nowadays and it just seems like there's just not enough of it. Right. And I'm wondering, have you started to make steps towards

[00:02:00] strengthening your safety career, towards your safety career goals. If not, that is what I'm here for. So over the next, oh my gosh, I would probably say three months. I can't believe it's April, because if it is April, that does mean that I only have four months. But over the next four months, I am going to be making so many changes around The Safety Geek.

We have lots of things going on. Updating programs, hosting a summit, speaking at lots of different events, all kinds of stuff that I have to get done by the end of July, really, however, I am on track though, so it is really, really good. So it's nice that everything is on track. So what I wanted to share with you was that if you want to be kept abreast of everything going on, the Safety Geek, make sure that you are on my newsletter, so just go to

[00:03:00] thesafetygeek.com/newsletter and you can join and as things come up. I will definitely be keeping you informed. I actually just started planning a summit for July and it is so much fun and I cannot wait to bring that to you guys, so you don't wanna miss that.

But anyway, I digress cuz today what I wanna talk about is how you can get better employee engagement. And most people, when you think about engagement in safety, the only thing that they think of is Safety Committee. And Safety Committee is just a very formal type of engagement. Not that you shouldn't have it, but you know, it is very formal.

You can easily see who's there. There's tasks, there's agendas, there's stuff like that. When people say who's involved in your safety program, you can easily just say the safety committee. Okay? So it's not that you shouldn't have it, but safety committee and your safety training, if you're

[00:04:00] including that as well. Cuz technically employees are engaging in the training, right? If they're sitting through it, it's not the end all be. It's not the only thing that you should be doing. So formal employee engagement could include your committees. Any committees, you might have a PSM committee, you might have a department committee, you might have a safety committee, you know, who knows any committees.

That is very formal. Training, I believe is very formal, even if you have the employees participating in the training, meaning like they are actively facilitating some of the training. I still think that's very formal engagement. Which is still good, don't get me wrong. Being part of like an SOP review team or an incident review team, or an accident investigation committee.

All of those, those are all very formal types of engagement. But what I wanted to talk about today is just other ways that you can actually engage your workforce. I want you to start

[00:05:00] thinking outside the box because your goal should be a very high percentage of your employees participating in your safety program, and the only way that you can get that high number is if you are doing small little informal types of engagement, because you can't have every employee on a member of a committee that ends up being, you know, too strict for one thing, but also like too hard on the operations team to be losing people for like

long periods of committee time, that type of thing. Right. So one of the things that I actually teach my students in Safety Management Academy is about being strategic in your engagement and really making sure that every process that you set up and every system you set up incorporates some sort of engagement in there. So that way you're kind of stealth-like, right? They don't even realize that they are engaging in

[00:06:00] safety until it is too late, my friends, until their habits are formed. And it just becomes an expectation and a culture within your workplace. Now, there are tens of different ways that you can include employees in your safety program, and the more that you include them, the more engaged they will get

to the point that when you don't include them, like if you do this enough and something comes up and you don't include them, they'll get upset. Because they're used to being part of the process and then all of a sudden you put something out there that didn't include employees. How dare you? That's what we wanna get to, right?

So in order to have that much of an engaged workforce, you have to start off by strategically engaging them in a stealth-like manner. So another way to think about engagement and when you're trying to consider how you can do this is to think of it like collaboration. Like when there is a safety issue,

[00:07:00] my first step is always to discuss it with the employees in the area. But I don't just wanna find the facts of the safety issue or facts of what they're doing. I actually want to collaborate with the employees in the area on how to fix the problem. I wanna get their input on how to fix it, right? So I'm collaborating with them. They're participating in the process, and over time they will become more engaged in the process.

So you can even do this with policy reviews or JHA reviews or SOP reviews, right? Anything that's coming up for an update. The key is to grab an employee and go over it with them, but not just like, Hey, is this policy good? It's, you know, we are more skilled in recognizing when a policy is right or not. It's more of like, is this accurate to what we are actually doing on the floor? And the key is to

[00:08:00] encourage their feedback and their input. Because what'll happen a lot of times when you do these type of reviews with an employee, and the way that I typically do them is I'll have a stack of things that I need reviewed and I'll sit in the break room and when somebody comes in, I'll be like, Hey, I could really use your help.

Can you spare five to 10 minutes to read this and go over it with me? And I'll probably do that with five or 10 employees. So way I'm getting a lot of people's feedback and input on whatever it is I'm reviewing with them. But a lot of people will wanna read it and just say, yeah, that's fine. So you have to be very strategic in how you're questioning them to really get feedback and be very like, what about this part?

How are you currently applying this? Can you give me some examples? Right? So really be adamant that you want their feedback, but most importantly, when they do give you feedback, you need to act on their suggestions. Meaning that, let's say that

[00:09:00] somebody told you about a change that had to be made in a hazard communication policy. So you make the change in the HazCom policy, it gets, you know, reviewed and updated and all of that. You then go back to that employee who made that suggestion. And you follow up with them to say, Hey, I just wanted to let you know, you told us that we should have, computerized SDSs. So we are in the process of creating kiosks that there could be SDSs all over the facility.

Thank you for the suggestion. It's now part of our policy. So you're going back to that employee. And you're telling them that you actually acted on whatever suggestion that they have, and you should do this regardless of what the suggestion is. Like even if it comes back as a no, you could even say like, Hey, we took your suggestion to the management team and we've had to table it for now due to expenses. But I will

[00:10:00] tell you, everybody thinks it's a great idea and I've put it in a tickler file so that way it'll come up again and maybe we'll have the budget in the future. So always following up with them actually creates some more engagement because now they see that you are listening to them. So once they notice that you are listening to them, then they are going to be more apt to give you more feedback.

And as I say that, you're kind of like, I don't want more feedback, right? Like you might be like, I hear enough complaints, I don't need any more complaints. But in all honestly, when you're trying to build a safety culture and you're trying to build employee engagement, you need to have that feedback loop. You actually do want the constructive criticism.

You do want the feedback. You do wanna hear the complaints because it's all of that messy stuff that makes your program better. Right. Okay. So another idea that I have for you is that instead of just having a safety committee, which is

[00:11:00] extremely formal, you know, you meet at the same time every month. When you identify a problem, you could develop like a small problem solving group of employees.

So where I was saying that when there is a safety issue, I would go to the employees that are affected and I would have those conversations and collaborate with them. What if I took it a step further and said, Hey, this is a pretty big issue. Do you mind working with us on this over the next two to three weeks?

And we'll keep coming back to you and maybe we'll meet as a team. I'll grab three employees and we'll meet as a team and we'll try to problem solve this. And try to make this better for you as well as for the company to help everybody reach their goals. So that would be like a small problem solving group that's engagement as well.

And I love this idea because instead of having that formal committee that is ongoing month after month or week after week, however you do your committee, this is just like, Hey, I need your commitment for two or three weeks. And in fact, when I have

[00:12:00] clients who are struggling to get their safety committees off the ground, this is where I have them start because I'm like, okay, maybe it's too big of an ask for a monthly committee unless your state requires it.

I do know that there are states that require safety committees. There's no OSHA requirement on it. If there's a requirement somewhere that you have to have it, that's a whole different story. Like a PSM employee engagement and participation, like that's a requirement type of thing. But if there isn't a requirement, then maybe start off with like just a small problem solving group and you do two or three of those and people see that you're actually listening to them.

That could be a way that you can get your more formal committee off the ground. All right. The other thing is having teams write your SOPs or your JHAs. And I actually saw this when I was with OSHA doing an inspection years ago, and I absolutely loved it. The way this organization did their SOP reviews

[00:13:00] is at their pre-shift meeting every day. The manager, they had a list on their wall of all of the JHAs for that department. And they were slowly crossing them off. And what would happen is it would be a pre-shift meeting and somebody would pick one of the items off the list and then they would review it as a department during the pre-shift meeting.

And they would do one a week, you know, and eventually they would get through all of them, or maybe they would do two a week. I don't really know how many they did a week. But they, their goal was to get through the whole list and they said, and once the whole list was done, they just rewrote the list and started from scratch again.

But this is a great way to get feedback from your employees because it's them reviewing the JHA first and then their input and their feedback is going to a supervisor. That supervisor will then take that information and then maybe pass it on to you to update the JHA, the SOP, whatever it happens to be.

[00:14:00] So that's another great way to get employees involved and engaged in your safety program, because what you have to realize is that engagement comes from participation. It's not like they're just gonna be engaged just because you want them to be engaged. They actually have to be part of the planning in order to be engaged in the outcome.

Right. So what I want you to think about is, I don't know if your companies do this, but I know a lot of companies they'll do like company parties and things like that, like celebrations for birthdays or anniversaries or let's say someone's retiring. Right? And I love working for companies who do that, but I am typically such a busy person that I am never part of the planning.

And also because I'm typically in an executive position, the people planning these things never typically ask me to participate either. So it's usually done by the administrators.

[00:15:00] So then what happens during this company party is the administrators who have been planning this party the whole time are super excited.

They're really focused on the details. They really enjoy everything that's going on. But everybody else who has come to it, right, they're all like, this is great. This is a lot of fun. Let me drink some punch, have some cake. But are they as engaged as the administrators who actually plan the party? Probably not.

I know I personally am not like, I love that my companies do this and I love to watch the people get awards or watch the people blow out their candles, and that's really great. But in the back of my mind, I'm constantly thinking I have a task list, a mile long sitting at my desk, or I have this inspection to do, or I have to call the insurance company back or whatever it happens to be, right? But if I was part of planning that celebration, I would

[00:16:00] 100% be all in in it. So when it comes to safety engagement, it's the same exact thing. You don't wanna be the admin of the safety policy. You want to be the person that is gathering everybody together to participate, because the more people you are participating in your safety program, the more engaged everybody is going to be.

You wanna be like that admin that is delegating all the tasks of the event as opposed to the person who's doing all the work. This is really, really going off on a tangent, and I can hear myself thinking about all these other things I want to tell you. So I'm gonna bring it back and just go back to where we're saying that don't stop at just your formal engagement methods.

I'm not saying not to have them have your safety committees, have your training committees, do all of those things, but just know that

[00:17:00] safety committees are not the end all, be all of participation in safety. Every tiny little thing that somebody collaborates with you on in your safety program moves the needle on employee engagement and safety.

Every inspection, every training, every pre-shift meeting, every policy review, everything is an opportunity to build engagement. And when you do this enough, when you have a workforce that is engaged in your program, you are going to change your culture. Now, it doesn't come overnight, but it is going to happen.

So in order to increase your participation in your safety program, one of the things you are going to need is volunteers. They have to actually want to participate, right? And that is something I know a lot of people struggle with. So next week we are going to continue our

[00:18:00] engagement conversation, and we are going to talk about how you can get volunteers and move away from that voluntold type of attitude.

Or what I like to say is like the bobbing head doll of safety committees where everybody's just bobbing their head. Yep, yep, yep. You know, but nobody's really engaged in the process. So be sure to subscribe to the podcast so that way you do not miss it. And while you're at it, leave a review. I would love to spotlight some listeners on the podcast of something new that I wanna start trying.

I had to try to access reviews. I know I can get them on Apple, but I'm struggling to find them on Spotify because I listen on Apple Podcasts. It's only showing me the Apple reviews and on Spotify it says, Hey, you actually have to listen to the show to see the reviews, which seems kind of counterintuitive, but I guess I will listen to my own show so that way I can see my own reviews. But, um, definitely leave a

[00:19:00] review because I am gonna start spotlighting one listener review on every podcast. So that's what I have for you today, my friends. Thank you so much for listening, and I will chat with you soon. Bye for now.

Hey, If you're just getting started in safety or you've been at this for a while and are hitting a roadblock, then I wanna invite you to check out Safety Management Academy. This is my in-depth online course that not only teaches you the processes and strategies of an effective safety management program, but how to entwine management support and employee participation throughout your processes.

Are you ready to finally understand exactly what you should be doing and ditch that safety police hat forever. Then you have got to join me and your fellow safety scholars over at Safety Management Academy. Just go to

[00:20:00] thesafetygeek.com/sma to learn more and to get started. That's thesafetygeek.com/sma and I will see you in our next students only live session.

Bye for now.

Highlights From This Episode:

  • Involving Employees In Safety Is More Than A Safety Committee
  • Other Ways To Make Employees Collaborate In Your Safety Program
  • How Informal Strategic Engagement Helps Improve Safety Culture
  • Employee Engagement Can Build Good Safety Habits


To increase participation, you need to get volunteers. They have to want to do it. And that is what we will talk about next episode. So be sure to subscribe to The Safety Geek Podcast so you don’t miss it.

And while you’re at it, leave a review. I’d like to hear your thoughts and have some listeners to spotlight.

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Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)!  I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience.  Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world.   I would love to help you too.

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