The 6 E’s of Successful Workplace Safety Programs

By Andy Johnson August 11th, 2020

At Captive Resources (CRI), we currently work with 40 group captives comprised of roughly 5,000 member companies who take their workplace safety programs very seriously. By joining one of the group captives we work with, members become both the insureds and the owners of their insurance company, giving them additional financial incentives to manage risk more efficiently.

As the Chief Risk Officer at CRI, I lead a team of risk control professionals responsible for helping member companies create safer workplaces. As a safety practitioner, I’m well versed in the traditional Three E’s of Workplace Safety — Engineer, Educate and Enforce. But given the added importance of risk management to group captives, I punched up the list by doubling the E’s over the years.

My new, expanded list isn't a panacea for developing a single workplace safety program that will work for every company. Instead, I intend the list to act as a set of guiding principles to help companies foster safer workplace cultures.

In 2019, I shared this list at the NSC Congress and Expo. There, I challenged attendees to find at least one piece of relevant information on the list and use it to help improve safety efforts at their companies. If you feel up to the challenge, I invite you to do the same.

The Six E’s of Workplace Safety

ENGINEER Out as Many Risks as Possible

Workplace risks are like weeds — it’s better to be proactive and root them out before they sprout then to deal with them once they appear. To keep risks at bay, take a good look at your company’s work environments to identify potential risks. Once identified, develop a plan to engineer out those risks to prevent future accidents.

EDUCATE Employees on Workplace Risks

It’s difficult to create safer environments if your people aren’t aware of both the inherent risks of the job and the workplace safety programs you’ve implemented to protect against those risks. To make sure the entire company is on the same page, educate your workforce on topics like:

  • What risks they could face in the workplace.
  • What policies, procedures and protective equipment your company has in place to mitigate risk.
  • How a safer workplace can benefit employees, the company and society as a whole.

ENFORCE Your Workplace Safety Programs

The best workplace safety programs aren’t worth the paper you print them on if you don’t actively and continuously enforce their policies. Accountability and compliance are the key for this E — make sure supervisors and employees understand their responsibilities and supervisors know how to encourage (perhaps a seventh E?) and appropriately enforce policies.

Also, “enforce” doesn’t necessarily mean “punish” in this instance. If and when true accidents happen, use them as both a learning experience and an opportunity to evaluate your safety procedures.

ENERGIZE Your Safety Message

Let’s be honest, not all of your employees will be excited to learn about workplace safety programs and risk management policies. Earn your employees’ attention by having a little fun in your safety presentations and educational material. Involve them in the planning and development of training and safety program development. This added creativity will go a long way in keeping safety messages top-of-mind for your workforce.

ENGAGE Your Team to Develop Safer Cultures

All too often, the workers closest to the potential risks of a workplace are the farthest removed from developing workplace safety programs. Engaging the individuals who are most impacted by the risks in your workplace when you develop your program has significant advantages:

  • Safety professionals and regulators are not always familiar with the intricacies of each position in a given workplace, which could lead to unidentified risks and flawed procedures.
  • Workers can provide initial and ongoing feedback on the efficacy and feasibility of safety protocols and policies.
  • Workers will have more of a sense of ownership, which likely means more buy-in for the program.
  • Ask employees how to best reinforce training during the course of the workday.

EMPOWER Colleagues to Report Risks

You may be noticing a pattern with the three additional E’s — they’re all related to increasing your employees’ role in creating a safer workplace. After you energize and engage your employees, empower them by:

  • Encouraging employees to provide feedback to help improve your workplace safety programs.
  • Giving employees the authority to stop work and speak up when they come across unsafe working conditions.
  • Empower them to be creative, within bounds, and bring safety ideas to their supervisor for discussion.

Putting the Six E’s to Work

Successful workplace safety programs are not set-it-and-forget-it manuals of procedures and policies; they require daily compliance with those protocols and an ongoing commitment to improving your safety efforts. Ultimately, the six E’s aren’t a recipe for developing actual safety policies; instead, use them as guiding principles as you continue to foster an even safer culture in your organization.

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