5 Ways Workplace Safety Relies on Inclusion

A Safe Culture is an Inclusive Culture

August 2022

Workplace safety is one of the top concerns of managers and leaders throughout America’s key industries. Those in transportation, construction, healthcare, and other workforces are crucial to our economy but also at tremendous risk of injury on the job. While the US has made significant job site safety improvements in recent generations, we’ve largely overlooked one central set of safety factors: equity and inclusion.

To foster systemic safety in every industry, leaders need to recognize that diversity and inclusion are part of a safe workplace. At FDP Global, we partner with your company’s leadership to help you develop a culture of equity and inclusion that empowers your workers to be safe and productive. Connect with our team to learn more.

A Safe Culture Is an Inclusive Culture

For your job sites to be safe for every worker, you must consider your employees’ diverse backgrounds and how these differences — visible and hidden differences — impact their work lives. Here are five things to consider when building a job site that is inclusive and safe.

1) Language Accessibility

One of the unique things about the US is its lack of a legally-mandated national language. Because of this fact, the workforce encompasses hundreds or more spoken languages. In particular, many blue-collar and skilled labor industries rely on non-native-English speakers to fill their ranks.

Communicating your workplace’s rules, regulations and procedures is critical to maintaining a safe environment. Leaders and managers must ensure that workers who aren’t fluent in English receive the necessary information in their native language.

Creating placards, signage and training materials in the appropriate languages for your staff is crucial to establishing and sustaining a safe workplace and job site. Additionally, it’s important to create training materials that take into account varying literacy and comprehension levels.

Workers cannot be safe if they can’t understand the signs or manuals. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has found that language barriers are a factor in 25% of workplace accidents. That number has significant ramifications.

Addressing language barriers isn’t just part of a company’s best practices. There can be legal components to consider also. OSHA requires employers to “instruct its employees using both a language and vocabulary that the employees can understand.” The onus is on the company to create and deliver instruction and guidance in the necessary languages.

This need for appropriate language availability also extends to the attitudes of leaders and managers. When employees feel welcome and valued with their different languages, not shamed or excluded, they feel confident asking questions and seeking guidance. This level of inclusion inherently builds a safer workplace.

2) Properly-Fitted PPE

Personal protective gear cannot be one-size-fits-all and be effective. To ensure your staff’s PPE protects them adequately, your workplace needs to have a variety of sizes available to account for different heights and weights.

Many companies want to purchase in bulk and stock up on L and XL sizes. But it’s highly unlikely that your entire workforce will fit in those sizes. Improperly-fitted gear is a significant safety hazard.

  • Items that are too big and loose may get stuck in machinery or slip off completely.
  • Items that are too small may not protect adequately, or the employee may not use them because of discomfort.

Rather than buying large amounts of a couple of sizes, companies need to assess their needs accurately and order accordingly.

There is also a crucial social-emotional side to this piece of your safety program. That is, it’s critical to allow everyone to get fitted without body shaming so that they have PPE they can use correctly and comfortably. If a worker is worried about being teased or mocked for needing a bigger or smaller size than what is on hand, they may try to use ill-fitting items or forgo the gear entirely.

Additionally, having protective gear that allows workers to wear religious head coverings is essential. Some individuals wear head coverings at all times in public, so it’s important to have helmets and hard hats that they can safely wear with this wardrobe.

3) Accounting for Different Learning Styles

Your workforce will encompass a wide range of learning styles and backgrounds, including those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia or ADHD. Offering training materials in various delivery vehicles will help your staff absorb necessary safety information.

Whenever legally allowed, you can help address these different learning preferences by making training and testing available via:

  • Text
  • Audio recordings
  • Video recordings

It’s also important to consider any employees who are hard of hearing or visually impaired to ensure they receive all the necessary information in an accessible format.

4) Accessibility to Supervisors

Developing an inclusive workplace that respects each person’s voice and experience is essential to building job site safety. Inclusion and belonging help ensure that employees will ask for clarification and additional instruction when needed, helping to keep everyone secure.

Additionally, a safe workplace can only exist if everyone feels they have equal access to their supervisors to discuss concerns. It’s crucial to develop a clear protocol for employees to follow if they see safety violations and to establish and enforce an anti-retaliation policy to ensure every worker feels comfortable notifying supervisors as needed.

5)Team Ethos

When a group operates like a team, they have each other’s backs. As anyone who has served in the military knows, this team ethos is what keeps you safe. It can, literally, be the difference between life and death.

Exclusion, harassment and intimidation create employees who feel anxious and worried. And if they feel like they can’t ask questions or bring complaints or grievances to their supervisors without retaliation, the situation can become dangerous.

It really boils down to how easy the everyday communications is for the team. How comfortable do teammates feel coming to their boss saying, “Hey, I don’t really know how to do this?”

Workers who feel unsafe due to their race, gender, ability or other identity are likely to be distracted on the job, and distractions cause accidents. When you develop an inclusive workforce that respects each person as they are and allows everyone a voice, you create a team that trusts each other enough to work safely.

Inclusive safety is creating an everyday environment where your people experience open communication, speak the truth and feel heard.

A great first step is to be willing to notice difference. Importantly, notice the “onlies” — for example, the only woman, the only person of color or the only young person on your team. Do the work to understand how those differences require different safety considerations.

No matter your industry, safety is likely one of your top concerns. Creating an inclusive environment is essential for building a workplace with systemic and sustainable protection for all your workers.

Building cultures of inclusivity requires skills that many leaders haven’t been given the opportunity to learn yet.

FDP Global | WMFDP can help you with next and deeper steps, providing collaborative training opportunities to help your organization create a safe, equitable workplace. These unique events do not bring any shame or blame. Instead, they empower you and your team to lead across differences.

Reach out today to learn more.