KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Research supports the supposition of a strong connection between employee engagement and safety performance.

  • This article emphasizes the importance of getting all employees meaningfully engaged in all aspects of safety.

  • It examines the implications of a recent study measuring employee safety engagement.

  • It also provides practical recommendations on how management can institute leadership approaches that result in employees being more motivated to engage in safety.

A thesis conducted in the safety and security department at Eastern Kentucky University focused on measuring levels of employee engagement at a large manufacturing facility in southeastern U.S. (Mullins, 2018). The study analyzed four categories of self-reported employee level of

  1. engagement with other employees;

  2. engagement with management;

  3. engagement with policies and procedures; and

  4. employee self-initiative.

The main question of the thesis was whether less-engaged employees are more likely to sustain an injury while on the job. A voluntary, anonymous Likert-scale survey was administered and completed by 171 hourly employees. The data analysis indicates that these engagement criteria relate to an employee's on-the-job injury status.

Two limitations applied to this study. First, it was a qualitative study focused on one manufacturing plant. The reader must determine transferable elements that can be applied to worker engagement in other contexts. Second, workers self-reported responses to survey questions, which introduces a degree of lack of control over the data collected. An assumption of the research was that all participants responded truthfully to questions.

Engagement was defined as active participation in safety activities across the four defined areas of investigation, such as "involvement in decision-making," as defined in ISO 45001 (ISO, 2018). Engagement in safety also included additional activities of participation as defined in ANSI Z10, such as being involved in safety committees and offering recommendations for safety improvement, where employees engaged in non-decision-making safety activities.

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