Caution! What comes to mind when you see that word flashing in bold letters on a bright background? Most of us would slow down, avoid hazards and watch for workers. This is an obvious sign that protects certain workers, but it doesn’t begin to address the unseen hazards many workers face.
How do leaders ensure employee safety when a caution sign isn’t enough?
Regardless of the types of high-risk situations your employees encounter, it is imperative to establish safety protocols and provide resources, tools and equipment to ensure your team’s safety. When creating a safe working environment, it is important for you to realize that risk can be mental as well as physical.
Supporting the mental health of your employees in high-risk industries is just as important as implementing physical safety procedures. When your team feels physically and psychologically safe, you can rest assured that you’ve created a safe and healthy work environment that will increase productivity and lead to sustainable success.
Focus on your obligation to employee health and safety and do not take this opportunity lightly. Bringing in a mental health keynote speaker will maximize your efforts while keenly demonstrating to your employees that their well-being is paramount.
6 Strategies to Support a Mentally Safe and Healthy Work Environment for Your High-Risk Employees
Recognizing that the mental health of your employees is no less important than their physical safety is just the tip of the safety iceberg. As a leader in a high-risk industry, you must take action. This action can include implementing workplace well-being programs, offering access to mental health resources, creating a supportive culture and mitigating safety issues in the workplace.
Incorporating the following six strategies into your action plan will support your employees’ mental and physical health and cultivate a safe and healthy work environment where they feel confident focusing on work, rather than worrying about their well-being.
1. Prioritize Safety
Prioritizing safety sounds simple, but the reality is far from it. The puzzle of employee health and safety is made up of pieces that must fit together perfectly. Locating and fitting these pieces together should be a top priority for any leader, especially those in high-risk industries.
The mental and physical safety of your team rests squarely on your shoulders.
When your team works in hazardous conditions, it is critical to provide them with proper training, equipment, resources, support and protocols that allow them to do their jobs well and remain safe at all times. You must ensure that your employees receive ongoing training that incorporates changing conditions or risks. At a minimum, instruct employees on how to use equipment safely, identify and mitigate risks and respond in the event of an emergency.
You can view this as an opportunity to prioritize their well-being and ensure they feel supported, valued and secure in the knowledge that they are working in a safe environment.
2. Cultivate a “Got Your Back” Culture
If you’ve ever watched a cop show or war movie, you likely noticed that partners rely on their trust in each other to successfully face the most dangerous situations. Establishing this level of comfort allows those in high-risk environments to focus on what is directly in front of them, knowing that their co-worker has got their back.
As the leader, you have the power to create this game-changing “got your back” culture.
You can ask questions such as, “Are you sleeping and eating well?” or “Do you engage in self-care or regular exercise?” Displaying an authentic interest in your employee’s well-being also builds trust and a culture of mutual respect.
Another excellent strategy is to offer resources and support as employees face challenges that inevitably arise in today’s fast-paced world. This may include access to mental health resources or training on properly identifying and reporting safety concerns or risks.
Creating a “got your back” culture establishes a safe working environment where everyone feels valued and protected. Doing so will empower your team to take ownership of their safety and well-being, which will ultimately build sustainable success.
3. Inspire Resilience with Employees
Another genuine way to support employee safety is to provide tools and resources to build resilience in the workplace. Resilience is one of the greatest abilities one can develop, especially for those who face additional challenges at work.
Leaders should consider completing a resilient assessment. This survey is quick and simple while offering and offers valuable information for leaders. By discovering your team’s level of mental, emotional, physical and even spiritual well-being, you can promote resilience through targeted resources and support. The information can also be used to enhance workers’ health and safety awareness in areas where that is lacking.
Identifying where employees may be struggling allows you to support them in a way that best meets their needs. It also fosters an environment where employees feel comfortable being open and honest, knowing that you have their safety and best interests at heart.
4. Create a Psychologically Safe Environment
Expressing heartfelt interest in the lives of your employees is not only a great way to boost their mental health, but it is also the right thing to do. By strengthening relationships you naturally cultivate a culture that supports positive mental health and well-being.
It is important to encourage open communication and engage in active listening. Ask questions about what self-care looks like for them and what steps they are taking to focus on it, both at work and home. Their answers will equip you to identify warning signs that they may be ignoring their physical or mental health and implement measures to turn this around.
By getting to know your employee’s on a more profound level, you can support them in a way that meets their unique needs. This will foster a positive and productive work environment.
5. Schedule Regular Check-Ins With Employees
Earlier we talked about how important resilience is to overall well-being. As a leader in a high-risk industry, talking with employees to increase awareness of how important it is to your workers’ health and safety is vital.
You can begin by prioritizing frequent check-ins with employees. By recognizing that your employees face incredible challenges, and providing them with opportunities and tools to manage stress and adversity, you support their development of this important skill. You may want to consider promoting resilience by offering training and resources that teach meaningful coping mechanisms to be implemented both in and out of the workplace.
Create a culture of resilience and teach your employees to bounce forward without causing irreparable harm to their mental health.
6. Encourage Breaks
Working in a high-risk industry is physically and mentally demanding. Needing to always be “on” and hyper-aware of potential hazards can take a toll on an employee’s health and overall quality of life.
It is extremely important for leaders to maintain an awareness of workers’ health and safety at all times and put measures in place to support their well-being.
A valuable way to boost energy and ensure employees remain sharp in hazardous conditions is encouraging and expecting them to take breaks. Create an environment where they feel comfortable stepping away from work without fear of judgment or recrimination.
This begins with a significant paid time off (PTO) benefits program. When your team has the ability to rest and recharge without worrying about losing income, it will go a long way toward improving their mental health. Providing paid sick leave benefits are always important, but they become invaluable in high-risk industries where employees need to retain full energy and focus in order to avoid safety issues in the workplace.
In addition to offering paid sick leave benefits and PTO benefits (which cover any time off needs), you should also ensure your team takes breaks throughout the workday. Encourage them to step away from their intense work to recharge. Even five or ten minutes of downtime can provide a much-needed energy boost.
As the leader, you must remain cognizant of the fact that taking time off, whether for a few minutes or a few days, can be challenging in industries where tight deadlines and working long hours are the norm. Create a culture that prioritizes self-care by modeling this behavior yourself and encouraging it in others. When you demonstrate the importance of taking breaks from work, you will inspire your team to do so as well.
Build a Safe and Healthy Working Environment With the Help of a Mental Health Speaker
As a leader in a high-risk industry, you face a multitude of challenges. Despite this you have made the conscious decision to devote your limited time, energy and resources to prioritize the mental and physical safety of your team.
Maximize your efforts by hiring a mental health keynote speaker. An expert mental health speaker will motivate your team to be accountable for maintaining health and safety every day and ensure your employee health and safety plan is successful and sustainable.
By making this momentous decision and following through with targeted action, such as implementing workplace well-being programs, increasing workers’ health and safety awareness and creating a culture of support, resilience and well-being you are demonstrating to your team that their overall mental and physical safety is paramount.
Proceed with caution and care and you can successfully lead your team to safety no matter what high-risk obstacles they face.