For any responsible company, and especially those involved in field service, employee safety is a top priority.
Field service is well known to be one of the most dangerous of all occupations. That's because field employees often find themselves working in hazardous environments of various types, or in isolated locations, or with dangerous equipment. A good example is the construction industry. In 2020 workers in the construction sector experienced the most workplace deaths of any industry.
Companies have an obvious incentive to minimize workplace injuries and deaths due to the costs incurred when they happen. In the U.S., for example, injuries that required medical attention cost companies $44,000 per employee in 2020, and each death cost the employer $1,310,000.
But the real motivation for making employee safety a priority goes far beyond such financial considerations. Every company has a Duty of Care (a legal obligation in some countries, a moral one in every country) to do all it can to protect its employees from undue risks to safety and health. There can be no cost-benefit analysis that pits $1.3 million for the death of a worker against the possible profits to be made in an unsafe workplace.
Yet, it must be acknowledged that some tasks and work environments, such as those often encountered by field service workers, are inherently more dangerous than others. When employees must work under such conditions, what can a company like yours do to ensure the safety of its workers to the greatest extent possible?
Creating a culture of safety
In an article recently published in Frontiers in Public Health, a team of safety researchers reported that:
The findings of our study suggest that to increase workplace safety organizations should focus on safety culture in addition to physical safety. Establishing a high level of safety culture at the managerial level is vital not only for psychosocial health but also for enhancing member safety performance.
In other words, a high standard of worker safety results not just from providing employees with rules and protocols they can follow to keep safe, but by immersing them in a corporate culture in which attention to safety is pervasive.
What is a culture of safety? According to one definition it is "an organization's shared perceptions, beliefs, values, and attitudes that combine to create a commitment to safety and an effort to minimize harm."
The hallmark of such a culture is the perspective summed up by the declaration that safety takes priority over production. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which by necessity places an extremely high value on workplace safety, expresses it this way:
In a positive safety culture individuals and organizations emphasize safety over competing goals, such as production or costs, ensuring a safety-first focus.
When both management and employees take on that safety-first mentality, the chances of ensuring a high degree of safety for workers are greatly increased.
That brings us to the next question: how does a company go about creating a culture of safety?
It's all about communication!
The first step toward creating a culture of safety is for the leadership of the organization to make a strong commitment to prioritizing safety. But for that commitment to become effective in shaping the company's culture, it must be effectively communicated, on a continuous basis, to all employees, and especially to those working off site in locations where there's a greater exposure to safety risks.
Of course safety should be emphasized in new employee orientation and in recurrent safety training sessions. These should reinforce the company's attitude toward safety, and include specific procedures and protocols employees can follow to minimize their risk of injury on the job. But once that has been accomplished, maintaining a safety-first culture will require continuing, two-way, individualized communication between management, HR, and each employee, whether on-site or not.
On the management/HR side, that communication will normally involve regular general safety and company news updates, along with specific real-time safety notifications as issues arise. These should highlight the particular safety hazards and risks each field employee is currently facing, and provide guidelines and solutions for minimizing those dangers.
Management and HR leaders should strongly encourage field employees to report unsafe conditions or practices they encounter at their work site. But workers can be expected to do so only if they are confident that:
- There will be no retaliation for "complaining" about perceived hazardous situations. This may require that workers have the ability to transmit their information anonymously.
- Supervisors and HR will take their feedback seriously, and act on it promptly and appropriately.
How Fieldio can help you create a culture of safety
Fieldio is a comprehensive field-worker management platform built using state-of-the-art low-code technology from eSystems Nordic. It is specifically designed to help your company's management and HR teams implement a communication strategy that allows personalized, bi-directional communication between supervisors, HR, field workers, and designated groupings of employees.
Fieldio is your key to keeping your field staff as safe as possible. With it you can instantly, in real time, send each individual field worker, or groups of workers, personalized information and notifications to help them stay safe in their current assignment. It could be something as simple as alerting them to the fact that the roads leading to their work location are icy and slick. Or it could be to provide instructions as to how they should handle some potentially dangerous condition or hazard that has suddenly arisen at the job site.
Fieldio allows workers to engage in two-way, real time communication with their supervisors, HR, and other specified employee groupings. In particular, it provides channels through which employees can share feedback about workplace conditions and safety issues, and do so with full assurance of anonymity if they so desire.
Now's the time to make field worker safety a priority
We talked previously about the fact that your company's motivation for improving worker safety should go far beyond financial considerations. But, as a matter of fact, focusing on keeping workers safe can actually add to your bottom line: according to the Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, for every dollar a company invests in workplace safety, it can expect a four dollar return on that investment.
The safety notifications and news you can provide through Fieldio will enable your workforce to function more as a community and work together to keep everyone safe. If you're ready to revolutionize your field worker management, please contact us today!
WRITTEN BY: Mika Roivainen | Chief Digitalization Officer