It’s that time again: you’ve got a new protective clothing tender coming up. Do you copy-paste everything from the last tender 10 years ago? Or do you jump on the chance to involve your workers this time, gathering feedback about what they need and want from their garments? Here are 5 steps that will help you build a better safety culture by actively asking your employees to share their opinions on the protective workwear you help provide.
1. Choose your people
Think carefully about the way you come across while requesting employee feedback. It’s important that your workers feel you’re trying to help improve their experience on the workfloor, not pointing a finger to catch them doing something wrong. As a H&S Manager, you may not be the right person to speak with them directly. Try appointing ambassadors for a high-safety culture, such as your floor managers, with whom your workers may feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts. Or go one step further with an independent audit, providing your workers with a truly safe space to share anonymously with a third party.
2. Choose your setting
Do you ask your employees to share their feedback in a group setting (for instance, an all-hands meeting or daily stand-up)? Or do you give them the opportunity to share their thoughts in a private setting, one on one? The main benefit of a private interview is that workers feel more free to give honest feedback without fear of being overruled or influenced by the (louder) opinions of others. They may be afraid to share, for instance, that their current garments are too uncomfortable to wear correctly.
3. Choose your method
How will you collect feedback about employee PPE: a paper evaluation form, a digital survey, or an in-person interview? And with what kind of questions: multiple choice, a scale of yes/no/maybe/sometimes, or open fields? Asking the right questions in a structured way can vastly reduce the amount of work it takes to process the results. It’s important to think about how to phrase your questions neutrally, so that they’re not leading the employee to answer in a certain way.
4. Choose your moment(s)
When is the best time to ask your workers for feedback? Perhaps you’re about to start a new protective clothing tender, and you need employee insights into how comfortable the current solution actually is, and how it can be improved. Or perhaps you’re testing a potential new solution in a wear trial, and need feedback on the fit, comfort, and performance of the new garments. If you build in employee feedback moments before, during, and after the selection process, you raise the likelihood that your workers wear their new protective clothing correctly and safely.
5. Engage your whole organization
Safety is in everyone’s best interest! Commit to getting everyone on board with worker feedback as you move towards a zero injury culture, starting with buy-in not just from management, but also from other departments in your company. Taking your entire organization to task will also help flatten the unhelpful white collar/blue collar distinction that can get in the way of productive teamwork. You’ll never regret having a diverse group of internal stakeholders involved in your selection process.
The best solutions require feedback
It’s simple — workers who feel heard are much more likely to wear their protective clothing confidently and perform their job safely. Involving them in your process sends a powerful message about the importance of wearing protective clothing. At the end of the day, you’ll only be able to choose the best solution if you use real insights from the work floor.