Promote the empowerment of workers in safety and health

According to S. Seibert, when workers feel empowered, their motivation to work safely and healthily increases, even in the absence of management supervision. Empowered workers are more likely to feel competent and to have a significant influence on the safety and health of their workplace.

What is health, safety and wellness empowerment?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines empowerment as “a process through which people gain greater control over decisions and actions that affect their health, safety and well-being” and is both an individual and corporate process.

Challenges to empowerment

As Chris Argyris says, empowerment is intimately related to engagement. And engagement consists of generating human energy and activating the human mind.

There are two types of engagement for Argyris: external and internal. Both are valuable, but only internal engagement reinforces empowerment.

Internal and external commitment

External commitment is the one that is acquired with what is already defined in the organization. In this case, workers have little control over their destinies, and it should be considered that if workers have less possibility of influencing their working conditions, they will have less commitment.

Internal commitment comes from within. It is the one that is born in people for their own reasons or motivations. By definition, this type of commitment is participative and is closely related to empowerment.

How safety and health leaders can empower workers

1. Building trust culture

Lead by example, do what you promise, tell the truth and encourage open dialogue. Workers need to feel comfortable reporting mistakes, incidents, etc. 

2. Provide respectful and honest feedback on safety and health performance

Be clear and respectful in the message, highlighting strengths and helping to identify weaknesses. Explain how they are contributing to safety and health.

3. Empathize and make it easier for them to solve their own problems

We often find that leaders do not empathize enough with the situations that workers consider a problem for them. Depending on how this is done, it can damage workers’ self-esteem, and make them dependent on the leader, who is the one who provides the solutions. On the contrary, empathizing and becoming a facilitator, through empathic listening, workers learn to solve their problems by themselves, developing self-esteem, autonomy and responsibility.

4. Avoid believing that you are better than the workers

Sometimes leaders believe that they are better than the workers and this makes it difficult for them to be open to empowerment, no matter how much they manifest it. 

5. Reduce positional barriers between the leader and the team

Thomas Gordon indicates that the leader must behave in a way that he/she is considered almost as another member of the group; and at the same time help all members of the group to feel as free as the leader to make contributions and perform necessary functions in the group.

6. Encourage effective communication

There are two parts in communication: sending a message and listening to the response. If leaders want to be influential and develop the empowerment of their workers, it is important for them to be active listeners, to know the needs of the people in their team.

7. Have and keep a purpose in safety and health that mobilizes workers.

It is important to share this purpose, which is the gasoline that keeps the engine running.

8. Delegate safety and health tasks to workers.

Begin sharing with the team members health and safety tasks, allowing them to take a greater role identifying situations of improvement, taking care of their teammates, contributing with ideas, etc. For example, joint inspections of facilities, development of safety standards, being part of the process of analyzing the causes of incidents, etc.

9. Believe in people’s ability

Leaders often doubt the ability of the people on their team to solve their problems. That is why they feel obligated to intervene, solve, and delimit processes, and thus empowerment. 

10. Be attentive to growth opportunities by providing more knowledge and experience in safety and health

Periodically review with employees their development opportunities in safety and health issues. Identify training actions in which they can participate; set challenging objectives and goals with the team.

In short, promoting worker empowerment in safety and health not only improves working conditions, it also strengthens the connection between employees and management. Equipping workers with necessary tools and knowledge builds a work environment where well-being is a shared priority, creating a solid foundation for the sustainable success of the organization.