According to the U.S. Department of Labor, workplace injuries in Wisconsin are higher than the national average of 2.2 cases for every 100 full-time workers. In 2020, an alarming 67,900 workplace injuries were reported in Wisconsin or 3.2 cases for every 100 full-time workers. How could that number change? Perhaps one of the most overlooked ways to improve workplace safety is by employees speaking up about potential hazards.
What you say can make a difference
There are many near misses before an injury occurs, which makes it critical for employees to speak up and say something when they see a safety hazard. This is how we create a “culture of safety,” said Dr. Corey Cronrath, Marshfield Clinic Health System occupational health medicine physician.
“Employees speaking up about a potential hazard is so important,” Cronrath said. “It could be a loose or curled up rug. It could be a spot that isn’t salted when it’s slippery. A lot of people think, ‘Oh, I almost tripped on that’ and then keep walking. But the next person might not be so lucky.”
Cronrath elaborated on why employees are the best people to create a safe workplace culture.
“They walk the halls and the parking lots each day,” he said. “There are a lot of safety protocols and safety processes, but there is always something that is overlooked. Employees can find those issues and by speaking up, create awareness and get the safety issue fixed.”
What is a culture of safety in the workplace?
Safety is everyone’s responsibility. A culture of safety is present when employees and leadership share the responsibility, everyone is empowered to identify hazards, and take action to prevent mishaps.
Cronrath said the culture of safety is likened to the Swiss cheese model. While there are always holes and potential hazards, when it is layered or stacked on top of each other, the holes don’t align, helping prevent a potential hazard passing through the holes. When employees speak up about spotting hazards, those individual problems get resolved and will stack up and prevent workplace injuries that help create a culture of safety.