We can’t find every hazard in the workplace ourselves.  This is why encouraging employees to report hazards is more effective.  But how you set up your hazard reporting program can determine how successful it will be.

Employees are the ones closest to the job.  They are keenly aware of what’s working well, what’s dangerous, and what isn’t working at all.  The last thing you want is for them to keep it to themselves.

LET ME TELL YOU A STORY

I had an employee get her hand stuck in a meat cubing machine.  It was pretty bad.  The investigation showed that the safety interlock was glitchy.  But what’s worse, all the workers in the area had seen the problem and never reported it.

It was a bad culture at the time.  One where workers understood that production was king and that speaking up did nothing. Needless to say, we fixed that. But this is what happens when you have a lousy hazard reporting process.

HAZARD REPORTING EASY BUTTON

When you are creating your program, the first thing you need to consider is how your employees are going to report them.  Keep these tips in mind.

  1. It must be easy
  2. It should only take 90 seconds to complete
  3. Don’t make it complicated
  4. It should be convenient and readily available
  5. It must be super easy (worth putting in here twice)

Humans are lazy by nature. We will always take the easy route, especially for a non-urgent issue. 

We’ve short term memories. We get distracted and forget. When I see a hazard, I need to be able to take action NOW – not 2 hours from now when I take a break.

HAZARD REPORTING IS ABOUT THEM, NOT YOU

Remember, the goal of hazard reporting is to improve the safety of the workplace, get input from employees, and build culture by showing them you’re listening to them.

When you make them jump through hoops for it, they won’t do it, and your program will fail.

If you can’t come up with a simple, easy method for reporting hazards, then ask.  You have a workplace full of experts that can tell you the best and easiest way for them to tell you what needs fixing.

IF AT FIRST IT DOESN’T SUCCEED…

Try, try again. Sometimes you put hazard reporting methods in place, and no one uses them.  They’re duds. 

That’s OK.  It’s not a failure, its an attempt.  You learned of a method that didn’t work. Try something else.

INCLUDE SEVERAL DIFFERENT WAYS OF HAZARD REPORTING

There should be more than one way for employees to report hazards.  Everyone feels comfortable reporting stuff differently.  Some just want to tell you, others will write it down, and still, others will complain to their friends and say nothing to anyone in power – go figure, right?

The key to success is not forcing them into one method.  And not using methods where their report goes unresolved.

Here are some common ones and my favorite one:

 

TELL ANY MEMBER OF MANAGEMENT 

Technically this works, but it has its problems. Instead of the employee forgetting, the supervisor forgets.  Therefore, for this method to work, the member of management must have a way of immediately recording it.

TEXT MESSAGE WITH PICTURE WHEN POSSIBLE

This is an immediate notification method and super easy. You can add the employees to a group chat to make the thread easy to find; or give them a hazard reporting number to text into.  The problem is it’s promoting cell phone use in the workplace, and there may be legal issues when the employer doesn’t pay for the phone.

HAZARD REPORTING APPS 

Just like the one above, but an app will do it. This adds in the ability to track the reports to completion.

SUGGESTION BOXES

Have simple short forms that can be filled out and put in the suggestion box, or slid under the Safety Manager’s door; this works. It isn’t as easy, and they will have to wait until they are in the area, but it works well.  The downside is the time delay in the report being submitted and the box being emptied.  So check the box regularly.

**Pro Tip**

Always check the box when other employees are around.  That way, the word gets out that the box is opened and emptied often.  Nothing worse than dust collecting on hazard reports.

WHITEBOARD

Put up a whiteboard with markers available where employees can jot the hazard information on the board. What is great about this method is that supervisors can respond back to the employee on the board.  You can put up multiple boards to make them easy to access during the workday.  Have a routine to check the boards daily.

CALL-IN NUMBER

Having a specific phone number or extension just for hazard reporting. You can have the number go to a voice mailbox, so they don’t have actually to speak to anyone.  This is great for your introverts but also for anonymous reporting.

THE BEST HAZARD REPORTING IDEA

The best idea I have seen was not necessarily a method of reporting, but the form they used. 

This ingenious company and safety manager made up a short form that had the employee describe the hazard the location, and included a million-dollar question:

“What do you think is the ROOT CAUSE of this hazard?”

Yes, I’m smacking my head, and I’m jealous I didn’t think of it myself.  Talk about GREAT safety culture.  This put the investigation into the employee’s hands.

There were several other great tidbits on the form too – but that was the winner.

ALWAYS HAVE AN ANONYMOUS COMPONENT TO YOUR HAZARD REPORTING

Not all employees will feel comfortable reporting hazards, they don’t want anyone to know it was them. Maybe they feel like snitches.

There could be bad management practices going on they want to make you aware of.

The point is, always have a way they can report it without their name.

“No Name – No Blame” was the title of my reports.  I always made the name optional.

To take it a step further, I made sure they could type in the hazard to disguise their handwriting. Or have someone else call it in to mask their voice.

Most importantly, the security cameras can’t be pointing at the hazard reporting box and still call it anonymous reporting.

PROMOTE HAZARD REPORTING AND TRAIN ON IT

Now that you have several ways for employees to report issues, make sure you communicate it regularly. This must be part of new hire orientation, but refresher training is also a good idea.

How to report hazards is a great toolbox talk safety meeting.

To promote your safety culture even further, have supervisors remind employees about the process when they don’t use it.  A comment like “You should fill out a slip and put that in the suggestion box” tells employees you want them to report these things.  Even when you are making a mental note and handling it anyway.

INCENTIVE HAZARD REPORTING

I am a massive fan of proactive safety incentives and using employee reports of hazards is one the best ways to accomplish this.  You could make it your top way to earn incentives.

Some ideas include putting everyone’s name who reported a hazard in a box and picking one winner a week. Selecting the hazard report that had the most significant risk potential.  Or even just giving reward points to every hazard turned in.

Anonymous hazard reports can’t be incentivized, but, that’s OK.

Attaching a possible reward for reporting a hazard will definitely increase the likelihood of getting the reports in the first place.

TAKE ACTION

Take a moment to look at your current methods for hazard reporting.  Are they easy to use, immediate, and eliminate the chance of forgetting to report?  Do you have an anonymous component?

Over the next few weeks, make some changes, promote it within your company, and make reporting hazards commonplace at your facility.

Keep an eye out for next week, where we’ll take hazard reporting one step further.  I’ll help you create a process to follow once you receive the hazard report.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN

That was a whole lotta sharing on how to report hazards.  Now I want to hear your thoughts.  Leave a comment below sharing how hazards are reported in your facility. I want to know!

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 train and coach 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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