printech, January, 2004
Responding To Safety Complaints

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From:Gary Jones( )
Date:Sun, 18 Jan 2004 20:56:47

FYI - From JJ Keller's SafetyClicks eNews at

Can I help you?

Hearing safety complaints may not be the most pleasant thing in your busy day. However, it doesn't have to be painful and it can be a very positive part of your safety process. Below are a few tips to help you deal with complaints:

1. Open your arms. Employees may not express their complaints to you if they feel threatened or that you don't welcome their input. Greet them and thank them for identifying a possible problem.

2. Make time. It's never a good idea to rush or brush off an employee with a complaint. Set aside enough time for the employee to express himself. It may also be a good idea to schedule a formal meeting, rather than a quick chit-chat in the hallway.

3. Keep calm. While complaints about safety issues may not be a pleasant experience, it's important that you keep calm. Even an employee with a genuine safety concern will probably be nervous about confronting the safety manager; there's no need to compound the issue by making him think you're upset.

4. Ask questions. The employee may have information on a potential problem, but may not know how to express it or know what the most important aspects are. Ask questions to get more information. Be careful not to ask too many questions, or to intimidate the employee.

5. Evaluate the response. Is it genuine or not? This is something you'll do silently, perhaps throughout the complaint process. Look for things such as finger pointing or name-dropping as clues the employee may just have an axe to grind.

6. Ask for advice. Whether or not you have a solid idea of how to proceed, it may be helpful to ask the employee for advice on what the next steps should be. You may gain valuable information by doing so.

7. Respond with thought...and caution. Once you have an understanding of the employee's complaint, digest it for a few minutes before you give a response. You want to show the employee that you've considered what he has to say and aren't just giving a canned reply. Also, choose your words carefully so you don't commit to something you can't or shouldn't do.

8. Respect privacy. You'll do your complaint program and your safety program a world of good by keeping conversations private. Unless the employee grants permission even for a suggestion that may bring him praise it's usually a bad idea to divulge suggestions or complaints.

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