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Bridging the gap: How empowering frontline teams to speak up can save lives

Deniz Şenliler
Deniz Şenliler
-Dec 21, 2022

The report, Enhancing Social Dialogue towards a Culture of Safety and Health, published by the International Labor Organization has shown that every year, 2.9 million workers die due to occupational accidents and diseases, while 402 million people suffer from non-fatal occupational injuries. However, 300 million workers interviewed in 142 countries state that they feel they cannot report safety issues to their employers without fear of punishment. In fact, the probability that workers might suffer a serious injury at work is strongly correlated to their opinion that they cannot freely report safety issues to their employers.

The implication of 300 million workers feeling unable to report safety issues at work is alarming since it points out a gap between leadership and frontline teams. Fear of reporting injuries can lead to serious injuries — this fear hinders trust, making workers less likely to report an injury and eventually it creates more unsafe conditions.If unsafe acts and conditions go unreported, the underlying causes may not be identified, potentially leading to serious accidents. This lack of trust and reporting culture can also lead to more injuries. To address this issue, it is necessary to create a positive & proactive EHS culture where workers feel safe to speak up and voice their opinions without fear of negative consequences. A study published in 2020 has shown that higher worker engagement is correlated with fewer safety incidents and hospitalizations, indicating that a positive EHS culture can lead to safer working conditions.

To create this culture, we must first dive into what lies at the very core of a positive EHS culture:

1- Creating coherent values, attitudes and perceptions about safety through safety training
2- Overall EHS commitment from top to down and down to top
3- Frequent and open communication, especially between frontline teams and leadership
4- Encouraging reporting of unsafe conditions
5- Focus on insight and learning from data
6- Sharing experiences and proactively addressing shared issues
7- Establishing procedures and organizational structures that support safety in the workplace

To create and enhance these elements, the ILO Report suggests EHS should be considered and clearly communicated as a value and be integrated into every aspect of the enterprise’s dealings. In workplaces with a strong positive EHS culture, workers feel comfortable raising concerns about possible EHS risks or hazards in the workplace, are encouraged and even rewarded to provide essential safety-related information and management is proactive about collaborating with them to find appropriate, effective and sustainable solutions. This process requires open communication and dialogue built on trust and mutual respect.

What role can AI play in creating a positive EHS culture?

What AI can see 24/7 is extremely powerful and has great potential to bridge the gap between leadership and frontline teams and build trust based on real-time data. As we do at Intenseye, AI can be used:

  • to show the unseen hazards at the workplace in real time, alerting workers and management to potential safety risks
  • to analyze data on workplace injuries to identify patterns and trends
  • to present real-time insights, filling the void between how work is designed on paper and the reality on the ground
  • to provide workers with personalized safety training and information, helping to ensure that they have the knowledge and skills they need to work safely
  • to help companies understand the cultural differences at site levels and take a data-driven targeted initiative on a real-time basis
  • to empower both workers and leadership teams to focus where it matters most and kickstart the right conversation
  • to make compliance easier by decluttering and simplifying the complex inspection, reporting and task management processes
  • to create a more proactive and preventative approach to EHS, leading to a safer and healthier workplace

However, the data must be handled with extreme care. Companies should adopt a human-centric approach to deploying AI where the focus should be on fixing the systemic issues that make compliance difficult for the workforce, rather than blaming them. Additionally, involving employee unions (where possible) and securing employees’ buy-in earlier in the implementation helps to ensure that the data generated by AI are used to create a psychologically safe work environment, whereby frontline workers are empowered to speak up their minds. Such an inclusive and positive approach fosters constructive dialogue between decision-makers and the frontline staff, culminating in a transparent work culture, trust and a better-engaged workforce.

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#Journey to Zero
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