How inclusion in the workplace should be part of safety policy

How do we ensure our safety practices and principles are truly inclusive? In such a high-risk environment as construction, we need our employees to be fully engaged, both physically and mentally.

As a minimum for any business, legislation such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 ensures that every organisation has a legal obligation to keep people safe from injury at work. How do we, as responsible employers, create an environment that links workplace safety and employee inclusion to the benefit of both objectives? 

I believe this has to start with fostering a close working relationship between health and safety, HR and equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) teams, ensuring that policies and processes are designed to meet the needs of the diverse employees within the business.

What does that mean in practice? 
  • Ensure that policies, procedures and processes are published in a way that all employees can relate to and follow easily, in terms of language, content and accessibility.
  • Create an environment in which it’s safe to challenge. Be aware of body language and eye contact. Create spaces in which individuals can feed back – whether digital platforms, focus groups, one-to-one discussions and senior manager site visits. Be aware of those who may be less confident at speaking out. 
  • Cultivate a blame-free culture. Look at the process and how it can be adapted to overcome issues, rather than looking to blame individuals.  
  • Modify language to ensure accessibility. Resist the urge to use jargon, corporate speak or company-specific language. Ensure the language used is appropriate for the diverse backgrounds of your employees and consider presentation of materials in terms of meeting the needs of those with dyslexia and colour-blindness, for example. 
  • Design your workspaces with a physical and psychological awareness of what is safe. Take into account sensitivities to light and noise, and the needs of those with hearing difficulties, neurodiversity or mobility challenges.
  • Challenge behavioural ‘norms’ and your own thinking. Be aware of everyone’s working style and be prepared to adapt to meet needs. 

I believe that having a culture of diversity and inclusion embedded alongside a strong culture of safety provides us with the means to protect our employees and create a workplace that is safe for both the mind and the body.

Charlotte Baker is HR business partner, EDI lead at Colas.

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