worker participation for safety - by Dr.Isabel Perry, 21stCenturySafety

Any safety and health program needs the meaningful participation of workers and their representatives. Workers have much to gain from a successful program and the most to lose if the program fails. They also often know the most about potential hazards associated with their jobs. Successful programs tap into this knowledge base.

Worker participation means that workers are involved in establishing, operating, evaluating, and improving the safety and health program.

All workers at a worksite should participate, including those employed by contractors, subcontractors, and temporary staffing agencies

In an effective safety and health program, all workers:

  • Are encouraged to participate in the program and feel comfortable providing input and reporting safety or health concerns.
  • Have access to information they need to participate effectively in the program.
  • Have opportunities to participate in all phases of program design and implementation.
  • Do not experience retaliation when they raise safety and health concerns; report injuries, illnesses, and hazards; participate in the program; or exercise safety and health rights.



By encouraging workers to participate in the program, management signals that it values their input into safety and health decisions.

Methods to Accomplish This

  • Acknowledge and provide positive reinforcement to those who participate in the program.
  • Give workers the necessary time and resources to participate in the program.
  • Maintain an open door policy that invites workers to talk to managers about safety and health and to make suggestions.


Workers are often best positioned to identify safety and health concerns and program shortcomings, such as emerging workplace hazards, unsafe conditions, close calls/near misses, and actual incidents. By encouraging reporting and following up promptly on all reports, employers can address issues before someone gets hurt or becomes ill.

Methods to Accomplish This

  • Establish a process for workers to report injuries, illnesses, close calls/near misses, hazards, and other safety and health concerns, and respond to reports promptly. Include an option for anonymous reporting to reduce fear of reprisal.1
  • Report back to workers routinely and frequently about action taken in response to their concerns and suggestions.
  • Emphasize that management will use reported information only to improve workplace safety and health and that no worker will experience retaliation for bringing such information to management's attention.
  • Empower all workers to initiate or request a temporary suspension or shut down of any work activity or operation they believe to be unsafe.
  • Involve workers in finding solutions to reported issues.


Sharing relevant safety and health information with workers fosters trust and helps organizations make more informed safety and health decisions.

Methods to Accomplish This

  • Give workers the information they need to understand safety and health hazards and control measures in the workplace. Some OSHA standards require employers to make specific types of information available to workers, such as:Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
  • Injury and illness data (may need to be redacted and aggregated to eliminate personal identifiers)
  • Results of environmental exposure monitoring conducted in the workplace (prevent disclosure of sensitive and personal information as required)
  • Other useful information for workers to review can include:Chemical and equipment manufacturer safety recommendations
  • Workplace inspection reports
  • Incident investigation reports (prevent disclosure of sensitive and personal information as required)
  • Workplace job hazard analyses


Including worker input at every step of program design and implementation improves your ability to identify the presence and causes of workplace hazards, creates a sense of program ownership among workers, enhances their understanding of how the program works, and helps sustain the program over time.

Methods to Accomplish This

  • Provide opportunities for workers to participate in all aspects of the program, including, but not limited to helping:Develop the program and set goals.
  • Report hazards and develop solutions that improve safety and health.
  • Analyze hazards in each step of routine and nonroutine jobs, tasks, and processes.
  • Define and document safe work practices.
  • Conduct site inspections.
  • Develop and revise safety procedures.
  • Participate in incident and close call/near miss investigations.
  • Train current coworkers and new hires.
  • Develop, implement, and evaluate training programs.
  • Evaluate program performance and identify ways to improve it.
  • Take part in exposure monitoring and medical surveillance associated with health hazards.


To participate meaningfully in the program, workers must feel that their input is welcome, their voices will be heard, and they can access reporting mechanisms. Participation will be suppressed if language, education, or skill levels in the workplace are not considered, or if workers fear retaliation or discrimination for speaking up (for example, if investigations focus on blaming individuals rather than the underlying conditions that led to the incident or if reporting an incident or concern could jeopardize the award of incentive-based prizes, rewards, or bonuses).

Methods to Accomplish This

  • Ensure that workers from all levels of the organization can participate regardless of their skill level, education, or language.
  • Provide frequent and regular feedback to show employees that their safety and health concerns are being heard and addressed.
  • Authorize sufficient time and resources to facilitate worker participation; for example, hold safety and health meetings during regular working hours.
  • Ensure that the program protects workers from being retaliated against for reporting injuries, illnesses, and hazards; participating in the program; or exercising their safety and health rights. Ensure that other policies and programs do not discourage worker participation.

PLEASE add additional techniques to "get safety" from all people in your organization, including sub-contractors, temporary help, etc. SHARE this with others; you may help improve another safety program and save a life.

We would love to help you take your safety program to the next level. Be safe and spread the word!

*Information included from OSHA

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