The employee empowerment process is something we usually see discussed in the pages of Forbes or Bloomberg Businessweek, but empowerment is just as important for you and your workers as it is for the C-Suite. In fact, given that safety is on the line, it may be even more important. We’ve spoken to safety managers in various industries about how they empower their workers. Their tips break down into three concepts – encourage workers to speak up, give workers a mission, and let workers make decisions.

Encourage Workers to Speak Up

One of the easiest ways to empower someone is to give them a voice. You can find new and unique ways to empower workers from asking them to speak in meetings to recognizing and rewarding their efforts.

  • Have Smaller Safety Meetings - Break your safety meetings down into groups of no more than five to ten people. Smaller groups often make people more comfortable and encourage them to speak up if they have concerns or ideas.
  • Let Workers Help Choose PPE - Have all of your workers test samples of new PPE under consideration. PPE selection from worker input can have a significant impact on compliance.
  • Offer Rewards for Speaking Up - Try an incentive program to encourage workers to report existing or potential hazards as soon as they see them. The more safety hazards a worker reports, the more rewards they earn.

Give Workers a Mission

You can also empower workers by giving them a mission to accomplish.

  • Assign a Point Person - Choose a worker to be in charge of each area or function. Make them responsible for the safety of their areas and for telling their supervisor about any risks or challenges. It gets more people engaged and helps to build a safety culture.
  • Assign New Workers a Mentor - Assign freshly trained workers a mentor who is responsible for showing them how to apply the training they just completed and guiding them through their first project. New workers get the advice they need and the mentor knows you trust and value them.
  • Spread the Safety Enthusiasm - Find a worker with a positive attitude and make them an ambassador for safety. Have them show and tell others about the benefits of proper PPE and get people enthusiastic. It’s a fun and friendly way to inspire people to work safely and it empowers the “PPE Ambassador” to help make changes in the workplace.

Let workers make decisions

There’s nothing as empowering as being able to decide your own fate. Give workers the power to decide some things for themselves.

  • Link Safety to Promotions - Require workers to demonstrate that they have done something to improve safety outside of their immediate work area before they’re considered for a promotion. This makes safety an essential route to success and gets your most safety-minded workers into positions of leadership.
  • Take Time Out for Safety - Take empowerment down to an individual level. Let workers know that they’re free to take a break at any time to invest five minutes to check that safety protocols are being followed. While some companies expect workers to keep their nose to the grindstone, sometimes the safest policy is to encourage people to step back and take a moment to think for themselves.
  • Give Workers PPE Ownership - Whenever possible, offer two or three products that meet the safety needs for each job. Then let each worker pick which item they like best. If they aren’t wearing the right protection, you can ask, “Why aren’t you wearing that glove you picked out!?” It gives the worker a feeling of ownership and makes them more likely to comply since it wasn’t forced on them.

Expecting workers to just follow the rules can not only feel stifling for them, it can cause you to miss out on new ideas and observations that you can only get from workers doing the job. Try some of these ideas and see what a difference a little employee empowerment can make!