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Job satisfaction is key element of safety culture

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NEW ORLEANS — Job satisfaction remains a top ingredient in creating a safety culture in the workplace, according a 30-year safety professional weighing in on an oft-missing component of safety plans. 

“With (job satisfaction) comes the quality improvements; job satisfaction is forgotten in the world today,” Chet Brandon, Indianapolis-based vice president and corporate safety officer with safety consulting firm ATI Worksite Solutions. “We forget that it’s still people at the end of the day making it happen.”

Mr. Brandon, who has covered safety for various industries including nuclear, aerospace, automotive and manufacturing, spoke to safety professionals Thursday at the Volunteer Protection Program Participants Association’s Safety +, Integrated Safety & Health Management Systems Symposium in New Orleans.

His message was a simple one: Engage workers so that they like what they do. With that comes better adherence to safety procedures and more contributions to a safe workplace, Mr. Brandon told attendees. 

He called the lack of employee engagement and empowerment a “crisis” in the workforce, citing a 2016 Gallup poll that found 87% of employees worldwide not engaged at work. 

“When they are not engaged, there are issue with employee safety, equipment safety,” he said. “Engagement and involvement are keys … we have opportunities for improvement.” 

Mr. Brandon borrowed from various researchers in outlining his solution for employers that want to improve job satisfaction. Steps include giving employees opportunities for developing a variety of skills, letting them know what they do and why it is important, giving them autonomy and giving feedback. 

“The goal is to make the work more enjoyable, more meaningful and more valuable … we want them involved and motivated and interested,” he told attendees. “They have to get something out of it.” 

He encouraged safety professionals to enlist workers in developing safety solutions to gain their insights. 

“Do your people feel truly empowered? It’s not just something your boss told you to do … they are passionate about making something better. It’s not just up on the wall on a poster … these people live it. That means you are living it,” he said. “An important step is to encourage them to be a part of the decision-making process.” 

Mr. Brandon also narrowed his assessment to three psychological states for a “highly motivated employee.” They include: experiencing meaningfulness of the work; experiencing responsibility for the outcomes of the work; and knowing actual results of the work activities.

“All three must be achieved to have motivated employees,” he told attendees. With that, “safety becomes automatic,” he added. “They get the work done; (there’s) high quality, high safety (and) low turnover.”

Mr. Brandon also listed several barriers to achieving higher employee engagement. The employees need the right skills, he said, adding that “you must put the right people in the right job.” After that, employees must “have the willingness to put themselves out there” — in other words, they want to be there, he said. 

Lastly, he addressed the workplace in general. Speaking to employers, he said that a bad work environment keeps engagement at bay. “Work to make it a good place, let people feel respected … make it a place that is accepting and a place they can recognize as a place to succeed,” he said.