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The Importance of an engaged workforce

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Since 2009, Safe Work Australia has been running a nationwide campaign to encourage businesses to spend the month of October focusing on and committing to building safe and healthy workplaces for all Australians. For 2022 the theme was Know Safety, Work Safely, and it has been the perfect opportunity for businesses to refocus on their safety management processes and systems, look at what's working, what needs improving and identify possible opportunities.

Individuals, their families and the broader community are all impacted by work-related injury and illness. Last year in Australia, Safe Work Australia preliminary data shows that around 163 people died while doing their job, and around 120,300 people made a workers’ compensation claim for serious injury or illness in 2019-20 (Safe Work Australia). And while Safe Work Month is a great time to highlight safety, we are all too aware that safety has to be at the centre of businesses all year round.

One of the most important factors for workplaces to be safe is an engaged workforce. If your workers aren’t paying attention, the workplace can quickly become a high-risk environment. When employees are engaged, they are committed to your business, its values and objectives. Further, when workers are engaged in workplace safety, it means they understand your business’s safety objectives, processes and procedures, and responsibilities. They will also be actively invested in keeping themselves and others safe.

When employees are engaged in safety, they are the key drivers in creating a safe work culture. They will report issues and concerns more frequently, practice safe work behaviours, and look out for their colleagues, encouraging them to work safely and are more likely to stay at the company for longer.

Concerningly 2019, Global Workplace report found that in Australia and New Zealand, 14% of employees were engaged, 71% were disengaged and 15% were actively disengaged. So how do we change those stats to get employees more engaged at work?


Communication is key, a study by Monash University identified team leaders have the ability to convey the importance of safety behaviour, encourage participation in safety management, and ensure vigilance and motivation among team members. However, they had to employ effective communication. The study found communication focused on the frequency of safety-related issues (e.g., dialogue on safe working practices) as a key factor contributing to a safe work environment. When it comes to safety, frequent and clear communication is always better.

Communication is a two-way street, so giving your employees a voice and a way to share feedback is really important. Your front-line workers are usually the most knowledgeable about the common risks in their work environment, so be sure to provide them with a platform to share their concerns and insights.


Act on Feedback


If employees provide feedback and ideas on improving safety, listen to them and then make changes. Workers may stop talking and providing insights altogether if you are not actively listening and implementing change. You could also ask them to be actively involved in implementing these changes and consult with workers for ideas on how to best socialise and communicate new safety processes. Furthermore, let the messaging come straight from your teams, and ask a representative to present to their colleagues. Your workers can most likely talk to the new changes and the impact on daily tasks better than someone without first-hand knowledge.

Education and opportunities to grow.

It's one thing to tell employees how to be safe, but if you can provide opportunities for them to use this knowledge in a practical way, make their job easier and improve their skills, workers will be more invested in their role. Empowering employees to work safely and confidently can lead to fewer incidences, fewer accidents and more productive and satisfied teams. Opportunities for training and professional development will also encourage higher levels of engagement and help staff feel safer at work if they are competent in carrying out their tasks.

After a month of highlighting the importance of safety at work, it's a good time to keep the momentum going and keep your workers engaged. Be sure to communicate the importance of finishing off the year safely and highlight the importance of staying vigilant with safe work practices. Also, get them involved, ask for feedback and make plans to implement changes before the end of the year.