For those of you who don’t know what Golden Rules is – it’s a programme to directly address the major risks in a workplace i.e. the ones that will cause the next fatality or serious injury. They come under different names too like Absolute Rules or Life Savers, and recently they’ve been increasing in number.

When I speak with organisations about their Golden Rules programmes and how well they’re embedded, responses have been mixed at best. So until recently I wasn’t a big fan of them.
Shoes stood on cracks in the floor
What struck me is that there’s actually a massive opportunity to do something incredibly powerful with those core rules. They’re an organisation’s most basic safeguard against the things most likely to kill their people, so each one should present an ideal opportunity to engage the workforce in the fundamentals of day-to-day safety.

Get it right and each rule could be a critical building block in better dialogue between management and workforce about the safety that really matters.

Get it wrong, and they’re just another management diktat done to tick a corporate box, with no relevance to day-to-day work.

To avoid the latter here are five characteristics of an ailing Golden Rules programme:

  1. You didn’t engage the workforce properly: so rules are seen as centrally created and centrally issued. Even if they’re the right rules, lack of ownership from your workforce prevents success
  2. The rules focus too much on discipline: they could have been positive, written in a way that emphasises local ownership, with involvement from individuals given the chance to understand what they were and how to use them. Instead the heavy use of stern language and discipline if you don’t follow them has switched people off, made the exercise very negative and widened the division between workforce and management
  3. The rules are too complicated, with too many conditions to make them work: this is made worse when combined with too much focus on discipline, so people can’t remember the detail and feel afraid of what will happen if they get it wrong. Rules end up driven underground and ignored
  4. You didn’t sell the rules: people often make a decision about how serious the message is on the basis of the medium. Making the rules work is a marketing exercise with the need for appropriate tools alongside proper workforce engagement. A nicely presented poster sent by email simply won’t cut it
  5. It’s health and safety driven only: without visible endorsement from the senior team or other key operational management team members your workforce won’t grasp the critical importance of the rules

If your Golden Rules doesn’t deliver the results you expected, contact us.