Despite existing safety rules, workers don’t feel obligated to report unsafe methods

Employees should be encouraged to talk about workplace safety.

Employees should be encouraged to talk about workplace safety.

A recent survey from the environmental engineering consulting firm, Antea Group, revealed workers' and employers' thoughts concerning workplace safety, specifically environmental health and safety. According to the firm's recent study, 55 percent of the participating employees felt comfortable talking with their co-workers and bosses about potentially unsafe behavior. A majority of workers – approximately 64 percent – responded they would like to be told if they are engaging in unsafe habits. Antea Group's report surveyed more than 500 workers currently employed by global IT organizations. 

While over half of workers may feel comfortable bringing up dangerous work methods, 52 percent of employees believe they are under no obligation to report an unsafe act. These employees may feel uncomfortable talking with co-workers, and Antea Group said discomfort will ultimately diminish the effectiveness of workplace safety programs, which are especially critical for companies employing over 5,000 workers. A majority of women appreciated the emergency response plans of their employers.

Workers and firms in the EHS sector should take a few precautions to ensure all employees are comfortable discussing safety protocols and bringing up the manner with co-workers. This is of particular importance because at the start of 2015 the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration updated injury and illness reporting

A worker wearing a hardhat.Employers need to ensure workers are comfortable talking about safety regulations.

Workplace safety in EHS
In recent years, consumers and companies have placed an emphasis on sustainability and green energy. A quick glance at Newsweek's 2015 Green Rankings ranked companies and nongovernmental organizations on their sustainability efforts. These organizations are spread over many industries, from health care to finance and consumer electronics. What these companies all have in common is some sort of environmental health and safety management. The definition of EHS differs today than it did previously, according to LNS Research. 

According to the National Association for Environmental Management, EHS is composed of many components dealing with how companies can create a fluid system to handle waste. When companies implement an EHS system, they should also keep in mind any environmental regulations and consider ways to reduce their carbon footprint, especially in an age of mass production. They also have to keep in mind current public opinion. For instance, a gas leak at a pesticide center in Bhopal, India, in 1984 resulted in thousands of deaths and many illnesses in the years following the disaster. Public outrage played a role in companies revamping EHS management procedures to prevent similar deadly accidents.

The duties of one company's EHS division will likely differ from another's. As an example, management provides Berkley Lab staff with resources in some of the following categories: waste management, safety ergonomics, according to the lab's official website.

What the workplace can do
Companies with dedicated EHS employees have to take safety seriously. Employers should already have an emergency response plan in place. If not, upper management should work on the development of such a plan. Response services include training and plan management that is tailored to specific industries. For instance, oil production companies can create a customized emergency response plan that may emphasize fall and fire protection. Other professional service components can revolve around data management and medical supervision.

Technology can also play a part with maintaining a safe work environment. In its 2015 EHS and Sustainability Software Buyers Guide, the National Association for Environmental Management identified incident reporting and user friendliness as top desires among companies. Poor software design may be why not all employees feel comfortable reporting unsafe workplace behavior – they simply don't know how. Workers may feel more inclined to report unsafe behavior if they have the proper means to do so.

Firms also have to make a concentrated effort to talk to all employees about workplace safety. This process can involve regular meetings, as well as posting safety rules in employee lounges. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandates employers provide this information to all workers, especially if changes are ever enacted.

Workplaces should take Antea Group's recent survey seriously, according to the organization's senior consultant and technology segment leader, Peylina Chu.

"By prioritizing the health and safety of their employees, technology companies will not only safeguard their brand, but also retain their most important assets, their people," said Chu.