Many would like to believe that there is one fix for all workplace health and safety issues. The easy answer is that there is no one-size-fits-all initiative; only a comprehensive one that you can tailor to address the unique needs and composition of your organization. Ablah, Wilcox, Umansky, Honn, Malley, and Usher, authors of The WorkWell KS Strategic Framework, have built an evidence-based model to improve worksite health initiatives. Their study is fuelled by the philosophy that safety programs should be workplace-focused rather than individual employee-centred, meaning: the place of work must be developed in such a way that allows employees to practice health and safety behaviours.
Employee behaviours that the WorkWell framework originally aimed to address were tobacco use, physical inactivity, and limited access to a nutritious diet, which were found to be roots of America’s most fatal diseases. However, it could still be relevant to other health and safety concerns. Ablah and her collaborators suggested five elements on which every worksite should be founded to make it conducive for behavioural change and compliance to wellness programs.
Behavioural change and compliance to wellness programs
Safety Committee. This diverse group of facilitators is the force that will keep the WHS scheme alive. Their role is to implement agreed WHS programs, disseminate related information, document critical incidents, gather feedback, and communicate concerns to the company’s higher strata. For advocacies as complex as workplace safety, it’s necessary to have skilled individuals who ensure its vitality.
Communication. This involves studying the tone that appeals to employees best and the communication channels that are accessible to the largest audience. Safety committee members should find out the employees’ core motivations and consequently fashion messages in a way that satisfies these.
Exercising Leadership. The best way to gain support and instil an understanding among employees regarding safety initiatives is through leadership. This means that every stakeholder, regardless of their level of authority, should be urged to shift cultural practices and assume as much responsibility for work health and safety concerns as managers.
Data. Intelligent decisions are built on facts. The same way goes for WHS initiative development. Hard data helps individuals understand the nature and prevalence of the problem and accordingly craft interventions to ease these issues. It’s recommended to go for behaviour-based questions when collecting data because it provides the highest quality of insights for organisation-wide improvements.
Incentives. Rewarding good performance increases the likelihood of these performances to be sustained. Something to keep in mind though is to choose meaningful incentives and integrate them into the worksite for everyone to enjoy. In the study, the authors suggested transportation reimbursements, recognition ceremonies, additional paid leaves, and premium reductions.
The outcomes of these elements are found to only be lasting when utilised in conjunction with more organisationally institutionalized features such as information campaigns, programs, benefit design, policies, and workplace environment/ergonomic.
Work Health and Safety has always been a tricky path to walk by. Now that you have a theoretical guide, thanks to Ablah and company, you wouldn’t be that lost in building a workplace safety plan. Though there is no full guarantee that you’ll inherit the exact outcomes as that of the study, you can be confident enough to use the mentioned strategies in your own terms. Research is meant to be replicated after all.
If you’re planning on trying your hand out on these, it’s best to consult a professional in the field of WHS or to contact us for onsite WHS Committee and onsite WHS Managers and Supervisors training. We thrive on delivering custom onsite WHS committee training.