"Excuse me, is this job safe? " How rude!

Why do executives so often draw the same boring conclusion that young workers get injured because they're afraid to ask questions? Tomorrow I could stick a "for hire" sign on the front lawn of my factory, and I guarantee that within three hours, I'd have a mile-long line up of adults who will ask me only two questions: "What's the starting salary?" and "When do I start?"

It wouldn't matter if my plant workers had reported 20 serious injuries the week before my employment sign went up; the almighty paycheck still rules. With the workforce's upholding of tradition, by and large we all try to keep our heads down, not ask any dumb questions, smile and nod - please the boss, above all else.

For many adults, it seems "rude" to ask if a prospective or current employer if they have a good safety track record or if the company had a high turnover ratio. As if it's inappropriate to look after your own butt - literally and/or figuratively!

Bob Magee, President of the Woodbridge Group with more than 50 plants worldwide, recently stated that we must bring a new strategy and innovation to the safety environment. " No matter what the size of the organization - whether it is 5,000 or 50 employees - there must be a family atmosphere where people care about each other and we recognize the individuals who wish to improve their working enviroment," Magee said.

Great companies are never satisfied with yesterday's results in production or safety. They understand that innovative ideas in safety can only be generated by a happy workforce; 'management by fear' only stifles improvements. And they know that employees of all ages and types (new hires, seasonal workers, old timers, contractors) need to be trained with new skills that will enable them to ask the right questions without fear of reprisal from supervisors or management.

It's just not good enough to identify symptoms of sick/unsafe workplaces; we have to find creative solutions and apply them! Imagine the level of excitement created in your workplace if the company president awarded you with two court side tickets to see Lebron James play, or gave you a free cruise in the Bahamas just because you came up with a better way to secure all the racking system in your factory!

Rewarding and recognizing innovative safety champions - it's the wave of the future.

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