An important part of any safe workplace is the recognition that workers likely understand the risks they face on the job better than anyone else does. They have to perform the job function on a daily basis, so they both know what needs to be done and, at least, some of the potentially hazardous or dangerous aspects of that performance.
While a company could hire an expensive set of outside consultants to observe their workplace and jobsites and create a report identifying risks within those jobs, a company may be better served by encouraging their own employees to point out risks and threats.
This has multiple benefits for the company. Their employees are generally already “experts” and can identify these risks faster and more cost effectively than any outside consultants. By creating a genuine program that allows an employee to raise concerns in a safe, non-retaliatory environment, the employees develop a greater sense of trust of their employer. Genuine whistleblowers with valid concerns should be seen as a resource and not a threat.
Of course, the employer must implement real changes when valid concerns are raised. It is also incumbent on the employer to ensure they take the lead in requiring training on safety issues and that all necessary personal protective equipment is provided.
Workers will quickly recognize the difference between a safety program that actually improves their workplace safety and one that merely creates empty slogans and exhortations to improve safety but fails to provide the necessary training or equipment.
Ultimately, any increased expense should be offset by lower numbers of work place injuries, lower costs for workers’ compensation insurance and a workforce that feels more involved and is more productive.
Source: osha.gov, “OSHA requests comments on guidance document that addresses whistleblower retaliation,” November 6, 2015