Thinking about the possible steps that you could take to improve your workplace health and safety can get your head spinning. Of course, the best place to start is stimulating a solid, positive and organic culture of health and safety.
But, as many other EHS leaders fear, you may be worried that tapping into the enthusiasm of your workforce would be like trying to draw blood from a stone. The good news is that getting workers engaged with workplace health and safety isn’t so difficult if you seek their feedback, suggestions and co-operation.
This is where health and safety champions are most valuable. They can be the link between management and workers and a key component of successful safety programs. Have a read below to find out more about what a safety champion is, and why your workforce could (quite frankly) need one.
What Is a Safety Champion?
In essence, a Safety Champion is a member of your workforce who promotes safe working with their own actions. They strictly adhere to your company’s health and safety guidelines. Plus, they can take an active role in safety committees and suggest improvements for the safety of your practices.
Then, through this example, the rest of the team feel inspired to perpetuate this practice. From there, they can make independent improvements to their own working habits. This constructive cycle leads to improving your health and safety culture. In fact, the Champion could even fuel continuous improvement in your workplace.
Beyond this, the specific role that a Safety Champion could occupy entirely depends on what would work best for your operations. If you’d like to learn more about what this could include, we’d recommend having a read of LM Partnership’s UBT Health and Safety Champion Guide.
Safety Champion Duties
The main job of a Safety Champion is to support their workplace’s safety culture. They take an active role in promoting a safe working environment.
In particular, the key duties of a Safety Champion generally include:
- Helping to keep your workforce motivated, and advocating a positive approach to workplace health and safety
- Contributing insightful ideas to help your organization improve its level of safety, and encouraging their colleagues to do the same
- Demonstrating, on a personal level, through their actions and their day-to-day attitude that they sincerely care about the health and safety of their colleagues
- Aiding the establishment of a positive safety-oriented workplace environment
- Understanding the workplace hazards that exist, and how to mitigate these potential risks
- Helping the management team put in place effective and intuitive health and safety policies
Benefits of Having a Safety Champion in the Workplace
Assigning workplace Safety Champions brings significant benefits for both managers and workers alike. From a manager’s perspective, the Champion can provide key insights into your operations and thoughtful suggestions for improvement. As a worker, the Champion promotes a positive workplace health and safety culture, as well as providing an approachable colleague that they can voice their safety-related queries or concerns to.
The perks that come with naming a dependable, likeable and perceptive Safety Champion for your workplace include:
- A positive, organic and flexible culture of safety.
- Encouraging your employees to independently improve the safety of their practices.
- Improved communication between the management and employees about safe practices.
- Getting everyone on board and involved in workplace health and safety.
- A more motivated and proactive workforce, with a far more nuanced level of safety awareness.
- A reduced number of safety issues, risks and potential hazards in your operations
- Conscious workers who are pushing for positive changes and higher safety standards. This establishes an ongoing system of safety improvements in your workplace.
How To Identify Safety Champions
As this website aptly puts it, “anyone can be a Safety Champion—workers, employers and organisations, from any industry, can all champion work health and safety at their workplace every day.”
With this inclusive principle in mind, we’ve come up with some key criteria to help you choose the best Safety Champion for your organization. It’s important to consider the following strengths and weaknesses in a potential candidate:
Enthusiasm and engagement — an eagerness to get involved and make their own mark on the organization’s operations
Someone who does not have any genuine passion for improving the safety of your workplace should not be considered further
A worker at a department workforce level
An individual who is already employed at management level
High-performing, well-organized and responsible in their own work
There isn’t much point in appointing a Safety Champion who is regularly late to work!
A confident communicator
If the potential candidate is shy or gets nervous speaking in front of a crowd, they aren’t right for this particular role
An employee who is friendly and well-liked amongst your team
An individual who has a reputation for being difficult or hard to get along with
They need to be willing (after all, this is a completely voluntary role)
You shouldn’t be having to try and convince an individual to accept the role
Safety Champion Program Example
Once you’ve selected an eager, conscientious and hardworking candidate for your organization’s Safety Champion, the next step you need to take is considering what management can do to assist them. By providing them with the right encouragement, training and support, you can ensure the highest possible success from this endeavour.
It is important to note that a good balance is essential here. The Safety Champion needs the flexibility and freedom to be independent, but they will need training to thrive in this position.
One renowned provider of Safety Champion training programmes is the Safety Champion website. With this software, managers can easily provide their Safety Champions with key training. The platform covers both the essential topics, as well as optional (but highly useful) information.
Plus, you can even try out the platform before you commit to buying, thanks to their free 14-day trial offer.
Safety Champion Awards
Incentives for your workforce to improve their attitudes to workplace health and safety can be found in all manner of initiatives. One great example of this is the annual International Safety Awards. These awards showcase instances of exceptional performance by nominated Safety Champions.
In 2019, the awards celebrated their seventh year. The event was hosted by The British Safety Council and Mates in Mind. The key awards included:
- The Health and Safety Champion award
- The Young Health and Safety Champion award
- The Wellbeing Initiative Award
The British Safety Council also granted its Outstanding Bravery Award. The winner of the award was Fazal Ahmad, an HSE supervisor at PakArab Fertilizers Ltd in Pakistan. The judges wished to applaud his selfless act of bravery in the face of great danger.
Lawrence Waterman, the Chairman of the British Safety Council, stated that:
“Creating safe and healthy workplaces can be profitable, effective and productive. That’s why whole organisations, from directors to the shop floor, celebrate the International Safety Awards.”
Still got a few burning Safety Champion-related questions? Below you’ll find answers to a few of our most common FAQs.
Safety Champion Training: Is It Necessary?
While this largely depends on the role of your Safety Champion and what they are expected to provide on a case-by-case basis, there is no doubt about the fact that safety training will be of great help. By providing training to your champion, they will be well-equipped to use their own initiative, come up with insightful suggestions for improvement, and think on their feet. So, contributing a bit of time and resources to offer them training is well worth the investment.
What’s more, as a manager, you must show your Champion (and the rest of your employees, too) that their feelings, opinions and safety truly matter to you. Providing training to your designated champion is a great way to convey this.
Should coworkers nominate Safety Champions?
A Safety Champion could have volunteered to take on this role, the individual might have been picked out for the job by management, or their fellow team members may have put them forward for the role.
In any case, it is certainly worth gauging the opinions of your workforce. But, the popularity of your candidate should not be set as the most important factor. Get your employees involved by nominating their top choice for Safety Champion. However, the final decision should be made at the management level.
Workplace health and safety is typically known for being synonymous with dull long meetings reading from a checklist in a binder. But, we’re here to challenge this age-old reputation. There’s absolutely no reason why health and safety should be dull.
In fact, attempting to get your workforce engaged in this practice by nominating an engaged and motivational safety champion is full of rewards, including the promotion of a more considerate behaviour, a proactive mindset and mutual responsibility for each other’s safety across your company teams.
References & Further Reading
- Improving Safety Culture in the Workplace
- Top 15 Workplace Safety Games Ideas + Links
- 100+ Short Workplace Safety Topics – Free Download
- Successful Safety Incentive Programs Examples
- [Guide] Safety Moment Of The Day Examples + Structure
- HSE’s Employee Involvement in Health and Safety – Some Examples of Good Practice