In the business world, sometimes the difference between success and failure lies in a company’s competitive advantage. Of all possible advantages, one of the biggest that a company can have is its workforce. Recent studies on workplace satisfaction show that 66% of self-described “happy” employees put in extra effort at work. There are few who have taken this attitude to heart as much as employees of German companies.
Occupational health and safety is generally a direct way to employee happiness. Employees who feel safe at work are destined to perform to their potential. By paying strict attention to potential workplace hazards, a company can ensure better working conditions, which means less time lost to injury or sickness and greater productivity. In Germany, this is accomplished by establishing good governance models, rigorous workplace inspections, proper employee training and instruction and easy access to health services and safety equipment (Volkswagen, for instance, is regularly cited as a model of good practice for healthy workplaces.) Commitment to maintaining and improving these standards has, since the 1990s, been a driving force in lowering Germany’s fatality rate in workplace accidents, far below the EU average.
Beyond just keeping a worker safe, another way to assure a worker’s morale is by giving them a stake in the company in the form of a work council. Aside from gaining a wage from the company or having partial ownership through stock, a work council allows the employees to actually have a say in company planning and administration. In action, this means gaining employee input before any decisions are made, promoting understanding between labor and management for the overall benefit of the company, thereby creating a synergetic company dynamic.
Looking at the obvious benefits that have been obtained by German companies as well as their work force, isn’t it time the rest of the world starts looking at improving their own practices? For the developing world, much can be done to improve the health and safety of workers, both through individualized company actions as well as through governmental oversight. For the developed world, where in many cases, labor organizations are seen as antithetical to profitability and individual rights, a work council could be the plausible solution to help foster better relations and cooperation between employees and management for the company overall.
Unfortunately, taking advantage of the German model requires more than just adapting some ideas. In fact localizing an effective OHS strategy requires review and adaptation to an individual company’s structure and needs.
EVS Translations is a Germany headquartered international translation company that specializes in providing expert language services for corporation with a global footprint. We focus on the translation of occupational safety instructions, health and safety manuals, brochures and training manuals.
Furthermore, we provide expert multilingual interpreting services for work councils and other employee-management meetings.
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