Three-in-Ten Workers Doubt Employer Safety Commitment

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By Bruce Rolfsen

June 21 — Most workers have positive impressions of their employers's safety efforts, according to a survey from the National Safety Council.

However, about 30 percent of workers say they are afraid to report safety issues and that safety takes a back seat to completing tasks.

Deborah Hersman, president of the National Safety Council, said the poll's results provide employers with opportunities to compare their safety programs to other efforts and make improvements.

The results also show that from a worker's perspective, doing the minimum required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other agencies isn't the same as prioritizing safety, Hersman told Bloomberg BNA June 21.

For example, a company that expects workers when driving to answer their mobile phones when state law allows a driver to answer, sends a message that on-the-road safety is a secondary concern, Hersman said.

“It's the involvement of leadership. It's employee engagement,” Hersman said about actions that send strong messages.

2,000 Workers Questioned

The survey, conducted in late May, was of 2,000 workers, a sample that closely paralleled the demographics of the national workforce.

The major exception was that the surveyed workers were employed by companies and other organizations with at least 30 workers, a limit that excluded small employers such as speciality construction contractors and non-chain retailers and service providers.

Workplace Perceptions

Overall, survey found that 73 percent of workers believed safety is a priority at their workplaces and 72 percent said management showed they care about employee safety.

When the survey broke out the results by industry, construction had the highest percent of positive comments, with 80 percent or more agreeing.

However, construction also had high numbers of workers questioning their companies' commitment to safety.

When asked if management does only the minimum required by law to keep employees safe, 62 percent of construction workers agreed with the statement and 60 percent said safety takes a backseat to completing job tasks.

Hersman said the divergent opinions of construction workers may show the gap between a company's official position and how workers perceive unstated priorities.

While an employer may say safety is a priority, workers may believe completing a project on time is a higher priority for management if supervisors doen't clearly demonstrate that safety comes first, Hersman said.

Temporary Worker Concerns

The survey also broke out results based on whether workers were in a temporary, management or rank-and-file positions.

Hersman noted that high numbers of temporary workers questioned employers' safety commitment.

When asked if employees were afraid to report safety issues, 49 percent of temporary workers said they were and 47 percent agreed that employees were resistant to working safely.

Across all workers, those two questions found only 30 percent of employees agreed.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at

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Detailed survey results are available at

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