In 2017, our roofing company created a tiered Safety Level Program (SLP) that inspires each member of our team to participate, build trust, and work safely. It began by identifying the things that employees really want and then incorporating this into our program. Our company has been roofing/remodeling injury-free since inception in 2004. The behavior of people is the predominant cause of accidents and the variable that is most easily changed. Although this article is based on our roofing experiences, the principles are easily applied to any industry, especially those that involve hard labor, high turnover, or dangerous conditions. Decades of observation has shown me that most employees want the same basic things:

  • They want to feel valued. 
  • They want to earn competitive wages. 
  • They want good training and opportunity for advancement. 
  • They want job security. 
  • They want to be proud of their work and their tools. 
  • They want to have a safe work environment.

Feeling valued

Once, long ago, while working as a counselor for troubled kids, my mentor used a valuable phrase as his children promised to behave better. Many schoolteachers and parents probably use the same phrase today: “Show me. Don’t tell me.” Do you tell your team how special they are? How do you show them? Ask about their weekend. Learn about their family. Acknowledge the difficulty of the task you’ve given them. Tell them how thankful you are that they are taking time to prepare well and do it safely. Ask to hear their ideas for solving a work-related problem and give them the opportunity to implement their solution. There are countless ways to help someone feel valued, and it begins simply, with caring. Showing we care is the foundation of our SLP. 

Wages, training & advancement

In the beginning, train, train, train. Then occasionally, spontaneously, stop all work and ask workers to solve a specific “real life” scenario. Once done, ask them, “What went right? What went wrong? What can we improve?” Wait for their full answers (without interrupting), then ask questions that lead to other possible solutions. This helps them develop problem solving skills. In any industry, opportunity for advancement and wages both increase with one’s ability to solve problems. Participants in our SLP earn raises and bonuses at each level. From the date of first hire, a new recruit understands how embracing our safety program not only keeps them (and their peers) safer, but also gives them a roadmap for taking more responsibility and making more money.

Job security

By training our team how to work safely, they remain uninjured and develop good “attention to detail.” Plus, our business only seeks “good” clients. A “good” client has a potential for repeat business or referrals, appreciates attention to detail, understands the value of a human life, and pays their bills on time. An active and visible safety program helps “good” clients find you, especially if your workers are in the field. “Good” clients expect you to work safely. Our business has been able to keep a backlog of work since inception, just by referrals. Working safely translates into job security.

Nice work, gear & environment

Whether you’re a roofer, an electrician, a welder, a policeman, or even a beekeeper, you desire high quality, comfortable gear. Gear that allows you to be safe and comfortable means you can fully focus on doing your best work. Nobody wants to wear gear that doesn’t fit well or is poor quality. A safety program with uncomfortable gear will remain a constant enforcement struggle. Who has time for that? Providing your team with great gear is a key component of using your safety program to attract and retain good employees. The goal is to provide gear that’s so nice, your team wants to use it. This creates a safer work environment and helps them deliver their best work. And it gives your safety program the best chance of success because people want to be proud of their work and their gear. 

To paraphrase the marvelous Dale Carnegie, “Create in them an earnest desire to do the thing you want.” Gradually implementing these tips into your safety program will gently inspire participation from the ground up. Your business, your employees, and their families will reap the rewards.