Worker involvement is the term used by the Health and Safety Executive to describe the ways in which workers are encouraged to take part in making decisions about managing health and safety at work.
This goes beyond giving information or consulting on management proposals. Instead, it aims to create a genuine partnership between managers and workers for managing health and safety risks.
To be effective and sustainable, worker involvement requires careful planning and implementation. The methods adopted to improve involvement should enable good communication, the use of collective knowledge and highlight the commitment of all those involved.
Successful communication is an essential element. Methods should be adopted that encourage two-way dialogue, where the profile of health and safety can be raised and workers participating can express views and opinions freely.
To enable effective communication, knowledge and experience is vital for both employee and employer. Targeting employees with specific skills, knowledge and experience to get involved will build the effectiveness of the methods adopted to improve involvement. Joint learning and development sessions for managers and staff will help to raise awareness, trust and understanding.
Encouraging experienced staff to share their knowledge by getting involved in induction training for new starters or by advising on how best to educate employees in health and safety is also a good method that can be adopted.
To show commitment to worker involvement, managers should take care to support worker involvement and recognise the contribution of workers. For example, where workers and their representatives have been involved in developing health and safety policies and procedures, that contribution should be recognised in any written documentation.
On a practical level, there are a number of methods that can be utilised so as to improve worker involvement including:
- safety committees that give an opportunity for employers to demonstrate their commitment to actively engaging with the workforce
- workgroups to deal with specific health and safety issues or change in management procedures
- schemes for feedback on health and safety concerns and to make suggestions for remedial action
- risk assessments that include a representative of the staff who carry out the tasks being assessed
- toolbox talks focused around specific health and safety issues to allow workers, safety professionals and managers to explore risks and develop strategies for dealing with them
- away days to get staff involved in health and safety away from their usual work environment.
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