How to get worker participation in Health and Safety Programs

The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the biggest challenges for companies today. Good occupational health and safety management can create a safe and healthy work environment for workers returning to their normal work areas. Only organizations that have clear safety policies will be able to avoid the risks associated with COVID-19 and other occupational injuries and illnesses to their workers.

To obtain an effective health and safety program, the active participation of workers must be had, however, the desired cooperation is not always achieved for various reasons, including: lack of information, little internal identification and, above all, little knowledge of the benefits associated with the program.


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) indicates that to be effective in any safety and health program it needs the meaningful participation of workers and their representatives.

Workers must be involved in all phases of the program establishing, operating, and evaluating improvements to it, including those employed by contractors, subcontractors, and temporary employment agencies.

To achieve worker participation in the health and safety program, OSHA recommends the following action points:

Encourage workers to participate in the program.

Participation in health and safety decisions should be encouraged, showing that their participation is valued.

How to do it:

  • Giving them the time and resources necessary to participate in the program.
  • Recognizing and providing positive reinforcement to those who participate in the program.
  • Maintaining an open-door policy that invites workers to speak to managers about safety and health, inviting them to discuss their concerns and encouraging them to make suggestions.

Encourage workers to report safety and health concerns.

Workers are often in a better position to identify safety and health problems and program deficiencies, such as: emerging hazards in the workplace, unsafe conditions, and actual incidents. By encouraging reporting and immediate follow-up on all reports, employers can address issues before someone gets hurt or sick.

How to do it:

  • Establishing spaces for them to report injuries, illnesses, incidents, accidents, hazards and other health and safety concerns. These reports must be responded to immediately. In addition, to encourage reports, the option of anonymous reports can be included.
  • Routinely informing workers of actions taken in response to their concerns and suggestions.
  • Emphasizing that management will use the information reported only to improve safety and health in the workplace and that no worker will be retaliated against for bringing such information.
  • Allowing all workers to initiate or request a temporary suspension or closure of any activity or work operation that they consider unsafe.
  • Involving workers in the search for solutions to reported problems.

Give workers access to health and safety information.

Sharing relevant health and safety information with workers builds trust and helps organizations make more informed health and safety decisions.

How to do it:

  • Giving workers the information, they need to understand safety and health hazards and control measures in the workplace.
  • Offering any other useful information for workers, such as:
  • Safety recommendations from the manufacturer of protective equipment equipment.
  • Workplace inspection reports
  • Incident investigation reports.
  • Analysis of occupational hazards in the workplace.

Involve workers in all aspects of the program.

To include is to involve the opinions of workers in each step of the design and implementation of the program, this will help to identify the presence and causes of occupational hazards. In addition, inclusion creates a sense of identification and belonging with the program, improving its understanding, operation and maintenance over time.

How to do it:

Involve the worker in the following aspects:

  • Program development and goal setting.
  • Report on hazards and development of solutions that improve safety and health.
  • Analysis of the hazards in each job, task, and routine and non-routine processes.
  • Definition and documentation of safe work practices.
  • Work site inspections.
  • Development and review of security procedures.
  • Participation in investigations of incidents and emergency situations.
  • Training of current coworkers and new employees.
  • Development, implementation, and evaluation of training programs.
  • Evaluating program performance and identifying ways to improve it.
  • Participation in exposure control and medical surveillance associated with health hazards.

Eliminate barriers to participation.

Workers must participate in a meaningful way in the program. It is important to make them feel that their contribution is welcome, that they will always be heard and that they can access the information mechanisms.

How to do it:

  • Ensuring that workers at all levels of the organization can participate regardless of their skill level, education, or language.
  • Providing frequent and regular feedback to show employees that their health and safety concerns are being heard and addressed.
  • Authorizing sufficient time and resources to facilitate worker participation.
  • Certifying that the program protects workers from retaliation for reporting injuries, illnesses, and hazards.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)