Creating a diversity inclusive safety culture
Diversity Matters: Safety in the Workplace event
Wednesday 12th February 2020
Legislation such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, ensures that every business has a legal obligation to uphold the laws, rules, and principles intended to keep people safe from injury or disease at work.
Conversely, when we look at “Inclusion”, the behaviours and social norms that ensure people feel safe and welcome, for many, this is still a moral obligation handed to HR, Employee Affinity Groups, and volunteers*.
*You may be thinking this is merely an assumption, which doesn’t apply to your business, and I recognise that every business is unique.
Curiously, the statistics show that in 2018 / 2019, according to the Labour Force Survey (LFS), stress, depression, and anxiety accounted for the majority of days lost due to work-related ill health, at an average of 21.2 days. The average number of lost days due to injury sits at 8.1.
For me, these statistics raise several questions.
Let’s start with accountability
Where does Health and Safety sit in your business? Who looks after Inclusion in your business? Do the two functions carry equal weight? Is Inclusion afforded enough time, attention and budget?
In my view, creating a true ‘safety’ culture means linking ‘Inclusion’ with ‘Health and Safety’, yet why are so few businesses connecting the two?
Here are a few reasons why I believe Inclusion should be intrinsically linked to ensuring a safe and healthy workplace:
Know that it’s safe to challenge
Managers: take note of who has the ‘loudest’ voice in the room and recognise that not everyone is comfortable being honest and direct with each other. Think about how different individuals like to be spoken to and apply direct and indirect challenge mechanisms. Be aware of body language and eye contact. How do your team members currently react to conflict? Know their boundaries.
Cultivate a blame-free culture
Think about how you can create a culture where blame isn’t apportioned to an individual, but rather a process. Ensure that your workforce feels safe to try out new things.
Be aware of the language used
Are there certain words or phrases that cause discomfort when people from different cultures interact? Are you using jargon or new or company-specific language, which may be appear daunting for new starters? Are your instructions clear for non-mother tongue speakers? Is there a clear agreement when one is needed.
Think about the physical environment
Are you designing your workspaces with both a physical and a psychological awareness of what is safe? Have you thought about sensitivities to light, noise and air pollution? Have you considered the accessibility needs of those with colour blindness, hearing difficulties, neurodiversity or mobility challenges.
Challenge behavioural ‘norms’, and be flexible
Don’t assume your pace is the best or only pace. Be aware of everyone’s working style and be prepared to adapt to meet their needs. Think about the time allocated to complete a role and consider whether those with workplace adjustments are able to safely meet your expectations, and are your expectations fair?
I believe that creating a ‘safe and healthy’ working environment means taking a diversity inclusive approach to health and safety. Perhaps it’s time to change the terminology and your organisation’s reporting lines.
If you are designing a hiring programme for returners, ex-military veterans, women into technical roles, neurodiverse individuals or you are planning your 2020 Inclusion strategy, come along to Outsource UK Diversity Matters: Inspiring Inclusion in the Workplace on 12th February 2019 and hear from our esteemed speakers on “What it means to be safe at work”.