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A company's real health and safety priorities are revealed not by cleverly crafted policies posted throughout the facilities, but by how the employees carry out their work. It only takes one incident of management telling a crew to drive to the worksite in a blinding storm, to The Food Doctor Review carry out work short-staffed, to work hastily, or to skip the pre-job safety meeting, to undermine thousands of verbal and written affirmations of "safety first". Workers' behaviour are strongly influenced by their perceptions of the company's real health and safety priorities. If they believe safety takes a back seat to production, employees will make the decision to take that trip in bad weather or work shorthanded. When an incident occurs it is easy to blame the employee for not complying with the documented procedures. Unfortunately, the company's real values and priorities are rarely identified as even contributing incident factors.
A bond of trust may be formed between workers and management when the acts of management convince workers that they can confide in their supervisors and can count on them to act or respond in a predictable way. For example, managers are trusted when they promptly follow up on safety meeting issues. In such an environment of trust, employees will freely bring up safety issues at safety meetings because they know they will be acted upon. Alternatively, lack of action leads to lack of trust and many very quiet meetings. Trust is also diminished when it is violated, such as when an agreement between supervisor and worker is broken. Once this trust is broken, it requires many positive acts by management to regain it.
Employees must feel that they have a "stake" in the program. Employees are more accepting of a program they helped develop than they are of one that has simply been handed down to them. For example, it is difficult to imagine anything more boring or wasteful than a The Food Doctor group of workers sitting around a table in a safety meeting, listening to their supervisor read out safe work procedures developed by either them or the Safety Advisor. Half of the employees present will likely have their mind elsewhere. What really gets employees' attention is having them participate in safety procedure exercises or emergency drills, then soliciting their input. Employee participation brings about improved procedures that employees are more committed to following because they have participated in their development.
Autonomy takes employee participation to another level as employees are allowed to actually make key decisions on various aspects of the program. The levels of commitment obtained through participation and autonomy are far greater than what would be obtained by a supervisor reading aloud at a meeting. Companies that allow for a high degree of employee autonomy generally have what is typically called an "open culture" because they engage employees in decisions and in the creative processes. Credibility is closely aligned with trust. Trust is gained when there are no differences between what is said and what is practised. For example, when management condones or ignores the behaviour of workers who are not complying with procedures, credibility is lost. The next time management promotes compliance to procedures, employees will roll their eyes in disbelief.