Engaging employees in your safety program

I ride the subway back and forth to work, Monday through Friday. You’ll often find me there on the weekends as well, since it’s the fastest, least expensive way to travel around New York City’s five boroughs.

Plus, there is usually a heck of a floor show.

So it wasn’t that surprising to learn at the recent NG Health and Safety Summit that subway weekday ridership is growing ‘at all hours of the day.’

“Fifteen out of 20 lines are at peak track capacity, including ten lines already at track and passenger-carrying capacity,” said Sally Librera, Vice President & Chief Officer, Subways Operations Support at MTA NYC Transit.

Amid these traffic challenges, critical maintenance work continues, with an average of 150 work sites in the right-of-way during the peak hours of 9am and 4pm. And while enhanced protection systems slow subway trains to protect workers on the track, their individual commitment to the company’s safety program is paramount to success.

Safety professionals agree that employee engagement is crucial to a successful safety strategy and coaching efforts.

Terry Mathis, Founder and CEO of ProAct Safety, recommends that any strategy begin with a clear vision of what engagement looks like to your company, including the beliefs, perceptions and values you want your employees to have.  You can then execute any number of safety programs, but truly engaging employees at all levels of the organization is key.

The NYC MTA Transit created a task force of operational and safety managers, and discussed safety culture challenges and opportunities in focus groups with front line employees and supervisors.  The resulting safety program involves every employee at every level, from Top 50 sessions for subway leaders to cross-functional safety project teams, supervisory training to a safety ambassador program.

“Plus, two days a month are designated ‘no meetings days,’ said Librera.  “Managers and supervisors are encouraged to engage with field-based teams to discuss safety concerns and operational issues.”

For Kay Vannatta, HR/Safety Manager for Dairy Farmers of America, the goal is for every employee to be touched by a safety message every day.

“Embedding safety into your daily work process by taking two minutes to evaluate the hazards of yourself and others builds a strong safety presence,” said Vannatta. “It can mean the difference between doing your job safely, or never being able to do your job again.”

And for workers and subway passengers alike, safety programs like these mean a safer ride back and forth, day in and day out. Hip hop optional.

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