Materials in Motion

The Disconnect Between Management and Employees Regarding Safety

Material handling operations can involve potentially hazardous conditions, and they require safety programs to eliminate risk factors. For a safety program to be effective within a facility, employees and managers have to be on the same page regarding safety expectations.

Unfortunately, employees and managers don’t always see eye-to-eye, but that isn’t always the sole responsibility of one side or the other. Employees and managers can have different perspectives when it comes to safety, which can cause a disconnect when deciding how to best protect workers. There are several ways that both managers and employees might view safety differently.


The employees using dangerous machinery or working in potentially dangerous situations are the ones safety requirements are intended to protect. Because safety standards directly affect these employees’ jobs, the workers may have different attitudes toward safety standards than management staff.

These attitudes can also be different between workers. In some situations, employees who are used to working a certain way may feel that some safety requirements get in they way of doing their job. These employees may be resistant if they feel that management is making changes to their safety program without considering the practical impact on their job.

On the other hand, some employees might have their own thoughts on what safety measures are needed. Employees in this position might feel that management doesn’t actually care about their safety if safety programs don’t line up with their own safety needs or concerns.


Like employees, people in management positions can have different perspectives toward safety as well. Sometimes safety measures may seem unnecessary, cumbersome, and expensive. There are many regulations that address employee safety, so ensuring that a facility is fully compliant can require significant effort. From this perspective, safety is sometimes considered a cost or a burden instead of an investment.

On the other hand, managers can also feel that their efforts to improve employee safety get derailed by the employees they are supposed to protect. It doesn’t matter how much effort management puts into creating thorough safety protocols if employees don’t follow them. This sense of wasted effort can cause employers to become less interested in taking a proactive approach to workplace safety.

Fixing the Disconnect

There are many elements that are needed to make a safety program effective. Some factors are easier to control, such as official policies, procedures, and incident recordkeeping. Other factors are harder to control, such as attitudes toward safety, behavior, skills, knowledge, and other human elements. Providing the safest resources for facilities, tools, equipment, and other workplace factors can make implementing a safety program easier.

To make a safety program fully effective, both management and employees should have shared expectations for that safety program. Together, both sides should establish clear goals for their safety program and understand how to measure its effectiveness. This common understanding is built on a clear commitment to safety from management, which includes proactive engagement with employees who have their own understanding of safety needs.

With this commitment to workplace safety, management can develop thorough safety training and activities. Utilizing the services of professional safety specialists and providing equipment and work environments that promote and encourage workplace safety can then lead to a complete workforce with a shared focus on safety goals that are understood by everyone.