Organizations spend countless hours preparing, editing, distributing and reviewing policies, yet they rarely get read. Most employees will admit after some prompting that they really didn't read through the policy manual they were handed on their first day with a new company. This is because:
1. There can be an awful lot of policies to read through.
2. The policies are long and often very dry.
3. Many of the policies do not seem to apply to the employee.
4. Employees have more pressing things to do.
5. Nobody seems to care whether they read the policy anyway.
Let's face it, many companies create policies simply to satisfy regulatory requirements or to obtain a safety Certificate of Recognition
. So what ends up happening is countless policy binders get printed, only to collect dust on bookshelves. This creates a culture of indifference toward policies that will ultimately hurt the company when a policy violation leads to a compromising situation for the company.
For example, imagine that a company implements a speeding policy. The stated objective is to reduce the risk of an accident, but more likely than not, it is at the request of a customer or industry group. According to the new policy, management is required to monitor speeding in company vehicles and discipline employees accordingly. Yet employees, indifferent to the policy, speed regularly while driving company vehicles. Managers, vaguely aware of the policy, are more interested in getting workers to the job site on time than in preventing speeding. Then the unthinkable happens; an employee is involved in a serious accident, and speed is determined to be a contributing factor. Will the fact the company had a speeding policy help their defense in court? Or will it expose them to additional risk, for not exercising the care and attention the policy required? My guess is the latter.
Policy binders are about to get much larger too. Many large energy and construction companies in the US (and now Canada) require their contractors to join ISNetworld
and comply with the safety policy Review and Verification Service
, or RAVS for short. The policy requirements are based on Occupational Health and Safety regulations in each jurisdiction. Here in Alberta, there can be as many as 39 different protocols, depending on the type of work a company performs. And it's not enough to have a policy, it must match the criteria set out in the regulations. The policies are so complex in fact, that consulting companies (like Workforce Compliance Safety
here in Calgary) do a fine business simply helping their clients through the process of becoming RAVS compliant.
Policies are an integral part of a company Health and Safety Program, but we're "improving" them to the point that they're becoming almost ineffective. I am writing this post to open a dialog on how to increase the size and complexity of policies, while still keeping them relevant and interesting for employees to read.
My personal opinion is that the largest challenge lies in effectively disseminating the policies to employees. We've created a policy management tool that allows safety administrators to load their policies into our portal, then assign the policies to various positions within the company. As employees log onto the SafetySync safety management system, they are prompted to individually review and accept (or decline) the various outstanding policies. The tool has been designed to track and manage minor and major modifications. Major changes are saved as a new version, which employees are required to accept a second time in order to remain "compliant". The policy component is in Beta testing at the moment, so clients are encouraged to try it out and provide feedback.
If you don't have an account, feel free to sign up for our software and try it out (as well as the other safety management components we offer).