Why Employee Engagement is the Key to Unlocking Safety Program Performance

How is your safety program performing? 

Is it delivering the ROI you expected? Are you meeting your incident reduction targets?

If the answer is no, then it isn’t necessarily because safety doesn’t deliver results for the whole organization. For many safety-critical organizations, the issue isn’t policies and procedures but employee engagement.

Study after study, including Safesite’s own research, shows it’s possible to see a correlation between employee engagement and injury rates.

Worker engagement should already be a top priority for your organization as a whole. But if you want to see the real ROI of safety, you also need worker engagement with your safety program too.

The 64%: Where Safety and Employee Engagement Meet

Whatever industry you work in, your organization needs employees who are happy, healthy, and engaged with their jobs. Employee engagement is a hot topic in leadership and HR circles, particularly because engagement is often so low: a Gallup poll from 2020 showed that only 36% of U.S. employees consider themselves actively engaged; 14% reported being actively disengaged with their work.

Employee engagement as a subject is a slippery topic. First, there’s no one understanding of how employee engagement is defined: one researcher found over 50 definitions. And in the field of risk management, you can add definitions from OSHA, ISO 45001, and ANSI standards. Second, statistics show that a majority of employees don’t regard themselves as being actively engaged with their work — whatever “engaged” means to them.

There is one thing we know. Whichever definition is used, a self-reported disengaged workforce is a big problem for businesses and their safety managers. Disengaged workers are less likely to be proactive, have more absenteeism, and leave their jobs after shorter periods. They’re also far more likely to get hurt on the job.

Disengaged employees have 64% more accidents than workers who say they’re engaged with their job. 

A very telling study of employee engagement found that employees who say they enjoy tasks were two and a half times less likely to report back injuries to their employers compared to workers who had no interest in their work.

At Safesite, early data from a cohort of customers found a correlation between the Safesite Score (a letter score representing engagement with the app) and reduction in incident frequency. In simple terms, the more employees within an organization that use Safesite to complete safety actions, the fewer incidents their organization reports.

Disengaged Workers Skip Safety Basics — and Get Hurt

Why is there such a big discrepancy between engaged and disengaged workers? 

Each organization may find different factors involved in employee engagement and its effects. But a review published by the ASSP in Professional Safety Journal offers an illuminating look at a large manufacturing facility in the southeastern U.S.

The authors found that employees who didn’t report job-related injuries had the following characteristics in common. These engaged workers:

  • Almost always follow safety procedures (95%)
  • Wear proper PPE (92%)
  • Support new policies and procedures (92%)
  • Do or would confront employees who work or behave unsafely (89%)
  • Report unsafe behaviors (79%)

Conversely, employees who reported job-related injuries demonstrated low levels of engagement — and they’d been working at the facility for more than five years. Disengaged workers said they:

  • Were not always in full support of safety policies and procedures (80.4%)
  • Felt safety policies and procedures got in the way of completing their tasks (73.5%)
  • Sometimes, seldom, or never reviewed the job risk analysis (JRA) documents (70%)
  • Most likely or always meet with management to handle safety concerns (39%)
  • Don’t always fully complete lockout/tagout procedures (34.3%)

The data found a strong correlation between employee engagement with the safety program and that employee reporting a job-related injury. And even without a deep dive into the manufacturing facility’s safety program or safety culture, it’s not hard to imagine how these incidents happen. Someone who skips steps in a LOTO procedure raises the likelihood of experiencing an injury. And workers who don’t support safety policies and procedures and even feel those steps get in the way of their work are less likely to follow them.

Key Takeaways for Your Workplace

Engaged employees have fewer accidents. And that engagement is as important with their job as it is the safety program. Investing time and money into employee engagement requires thoughtfulness and strategy, but it can truly pay dividends. Injury rates are 60% higher among disengaged employees.

So what’s next? For leaders and risk managers, the big task is to engage employees not only with their work but also with the safety program. Giving them a voice and ownership in their own safety will help ensure they:

  • Support safety policies and procedures
  • Share their safety concerns with management
  • Review documents and plans as needed

Are you looking for a tool to help boost employee engagement in your safety program? Schedule a demo to see how Safesite can help your team go beyond compliance.

Peter Grant

By Peter Grant

Peter is co-founder and CEO of Safesite. His experience working as a civil engineer working in project management for large commercial contractors motivated him to use mobile technology to reduce preventable incidents and deaths. That goal has driven Peter's strategic decisions for Safesite, which has grown from a mobile app to a robust safety management system.

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