In order to control health and safety risks within an organization effectively, factors that influence peoples’ performance must be looked at. Communication is one of the key areas to address. Effective communication is necessary when changing task/job related functions like shift work, work progress abnormalities, maintenance in progress, changes to the work team etc. Maintaining a certain ‘cog in the wheel’ environment helps things run smoothly. Otherwise there may be misunderstandings, inaccurate information and missing information. Certain work situations are more likely to attribute to communication misunderstandings. These could occur between inexperienced and experienced staff, during maintenance if work continues over a shift change and during deviations from the normal mode of working. Different people may have different views of the current situation in the workplace. Overconfidence and over-familiarity can result in one classing a hazard as low or even dismissing it. Typically people underestimate risks attached to their own work. Also, people in different roles in the same workplace may judge risk differently.
Fear-inducting measures to control risk like posters and safety campaigns may not always be effective. These messages may be rejected and workers may think the message is for somebody else. A more influential and cultural change may be necessary. Negative influences to safe behavior include senior management condoning bad safety practices and this message being carried out by the chain of command, lack of training in the use of equipment, equipment that is not maintained properly and the influence of others risk taking practices. Also people copy each other, if other workers are wearing their PPE, then the person that isn’t will feel pressure to do so to conform.
Working in a shift environment and at night can pose a risk to health and safety at work. People can suffer chronic fatigue at work which can impair their judgment. Shift work, especially at night can lead to health problems including insomnia, gastrointestinal disorders and respiratory problems. Tasks tend to be completed more slowly at night than during the day. In any organization that has an aspect of shift work there should be procedures for communicating between the workers. Either logs or writing things down or a group meeting before changes of shifts, so that all workers between two consecutive shifts see each other face to face for a small amount of time to assess and manage the work smoothly. This could only be for 10mins but the verbal communication that this can produce could be invaluable in mitigating against risk for the subsequent shift change of workers.
The culture at the workplace can affect health and safety. Senior management commitment is crucial to sustaining a positive attitude. The status given to health and safety at a given organization combined with resources and training will fester a positive culture towards it. A sensitive and caring attitude to employees’ health and safety concerns and an ‘open door’ policy will make workers feel appreciated and inspire them to attain a level of safety respect for themselves and their environment. ‘Cutting corners’ in health and safety to increase production levels should not be encouraged. It may save some time initially but the costs due to risk will be greater in the long run.