How improving DEI initiatives can enhance worker health and safety

Why organizations should commit to better diversity and inclusion

How improving DEI initiatives can enhance worker health and safety

While not traditionally thought of as under the OHS umbrella, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives can actually play a key part in keeping workers safe.

“Diversity enhances worker health and safety as it drives diversity of thought—new ways of identifying and solving problems,” says Teresa Chiu, Manager of Financial and Sustainability Reporting, Blackline Safety. Blackline is a gas detection specialist.

“Health and safety issues at a company are evolving because work is dynamic. If a company supports diversity, new hazards can be more easily identified, and companies can more easily break through ‘group think’ and challenge the status quo.

For example, a diverse group of people looks at situations in different ways. Their varying backgrounds and experiences let them see scenarios, including hazards, differently. This leads to different approaches to mitigating risk and ensuring workers are safe,” says Chiu.

She says that Blackline Safety “believes that a diverse workforce leads to high levels of engagement and effective decision-making. We aim to cultivate a thriving, diverse and inclusive culture where our employees feel belonged, make an impact and have opportunities for development.”

The company has committed to improving DEI with encouraging results so far. Blackline Safety’s 2021 ESG Report highlights that there has been an 8 per cent increase in women in management at the company. In addition, its BIPOC representation has increased by 6 per cent.

For those companies wishing to improve their DEI initiatives, Blackline says that leadership is essential and “engagement from senior leaders and board members are key. The tone really needs to be set at the top.”

But, says Chiu, there is no one size fits all approach, this is why it is so important to listen to employees. “DEI doesn’t mean the same thing to every person or company,” she says. It is also great to keep an eye on what other companies are doing and seeing if their initiatives could be a good fit for you.

“There are a lot of companies out there that are doing great things from a DEI perspective and are not shy about talking about it, so there are many examples of things you can do to improve. Besides that, there are many firms that can assess your company in detail and provide best practices and a roadmap.”

Safety is all about effectively communicated with your workers, and this certainly isn’t any different for diversity initiatives. Lay them out to your employees so that they know what’s going on. “Once you have listened and looked around, and you know what shortcomings you want to tackle, acknowledge them to your people, indicate what you are going to do, talk about it with your people and follow through on what you say you are going to do,” says Chiu.

Ultimately, changes need to be made in the long term. “DEI is not a quota to be achieved or a goal to be hit. We don’t ever want to stop improving the leadership and skillset of our workforce, and that includes our people’s education and understanding of what a strong diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce looks like, and how it helps us achieve our strategic and operational goals. Leadership is a process, and we continue to work at it every day to become an employer of choice for all people.”