Managing Changes Can Minimize Hazards

It's little surprise that 18- to 34-year-olds are at the heart of a nationwide increase in illegal drug use, and the manufacturing industry traditionally draws heavily from this pool of job seekers.

Companies that are re-engineering their organizations face many hazards that ultimately could hurt employees. John Kolak, a safety and health professional with Colorado Springs Utilities, told attendees at the recent American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Exposition about major hazards associated with reorganization and how to minimize them.

Fear enters into the organization. Employees are afraid of losing their jobs. "Stress increases with fear, and an increase in stress has an affect on worker safety," Kolak said, adding fear must be managed.

Employees become confused and frustrated, Kolak said, because reorganization means change. "Employees can only keep so many balls in the air for so long. As a result, they can't even manage basic tasks, which results in more accidents." Morale begins to decline and affect productivity. Employers must try to maintain the loyalty of their work force by communicating openly and sharing as much information as possible.

Accountability can get lost. Management is less available during reorganizations. Even managers often are downsized, and accountability for safety is ill-defined, Kolak said. Employees are the ones who become accountable for their safety without guidance from management.

Kolak suggested that management recognize their employees' basic human needs and communicate information to them with integrity. He noted the importance of "staying the course" during the reorganization phase. "If you react too quickly, you will create corporate insanity."

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