Safety is a key element to any youth activity, especially when children are in the care of staff or an organization outside of the home. Whether you’re a recreation organization, sports association, school, camp, or other youth program, engaging your staff in safety establishes core values, and ensures that everyone makes safe decisions. Here’s how to engage different staff in safety:
Create a clear structure
When staff know what is expected of them, and their role within the organization, they’re much more responsive to, and engaged with, your safety processes. Establish a clear vision to guide your safety strategy, and use it as a foundation to build and shape goals. Once overall strategies are in place, staff can use these to develop tactics to support them, and guide staff in their daily responsibilities. Structure also helps set expectations for new staff as they join your organization, and ensures that everyone is on the same page.
Listen to your staff
Safety should be a topic that everyone is comfortable talking about, and when organizations encourage and support feedback from staff, everyone benefits. Often, staff have first-hand experience with issues that can be safety concerns, or have had to use one process or another during their shift. Whether your organization’s feedback loop is formal or informal, invite employees to participate in debriefs, education sessions, team meetings, process development initiatives, or simply to share their ideas or knowledge whenever they’re inspired to do so. And always remember to follow up in a timely manner, express your appreciation for their ideas, and give them the credit if you choose to implement a suggestion.
Provide ongoing training
With any topic, there’s always an opportunity to learn something new, or to improve a process – safety is no different. Training is great for new and existing employees, and ensures that everyone is properly trained on general and organization-specific safety processes. When an organization demonstrates that safety training is a priority, staff feel that they’re being invested in – it helps them apply and practice what they’ve learned, and apply it to their daily decision-making. Use real-life examples (good or bad) as a learning opportunity, and to encourage continual improvement among your teams.
Have good communication
Communication must be clear and concise, especially when it comes to safety – there can be no ambiguity over a process or expectation, especially when the safety of youth is dependent on it. Address all possible scenarios, identify exceptions to certain rules, and don’t leave room for assumptions – in an emergency, every minute counts, and you want your staff to be confident in their decisions. Provide context for safety processes and procedures, whether it’s based on experience, specific safety protocols, or an organizational policy.
Give positive feedback
If you notice someone carrying out a safety measure, or responding effectively to an emergency scenario, take the time to acknowledge and reward them – you can praise or thank them verbally, present them with a certificate, or show your thanks with a little bonus, card, or gift. Alert their manager, so that they can add their own acknowledgement as well – after all, behaviours that are followed by positive reinforcement will increase the likelihood of that behaviour being repeated.
When employees are engaged in safety, they create and maintain a healthy, sustainable workplace safety culture, both for themselves and for participants, players, students, that they’re responsible for. Here are four things that engaged employees do (Source: DEKRA Organizational Safety & Reliability):
- Report first aid incidents, even if they’re the smallest incidents
- Report near-misses, or situations where staff felt that their safety, or that of their participants, was compromised
- Identify Serious Injury or Fatality (SIF), which allows organizations to prioritize risk removal and environmental assessment
- Make behaviour-based safety observations to enforce healthy working habits and establish safety as a top priority
How does your organization keep safety top of mind with your staff?
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