Tips for Communicating the Safety Message
GEMMA COLLINS DOYLE
Communicating your safety message is no easy feat, but so crucial to creating a safe and healthy place to work. Your safety message will have the power to help prevent injuries and illness, so I am sure you would agree, that it is something that needs to be taken seriously.
Like any other part of the business, health and safety deserve the time and effort required to ensure that the message is clear, engaging, positive and informative.
” Failing to communicate about safety, just makes it become a subject that employees think they don’t need to concern themselves with when the opposite is actually true!”
Why is communicating the safety message so important?
Failing to communicate about safety, just makes it become a subject that employees think they don’t need to concern themselves with when the opposite is actually true!
Poor communication can have such a negative effect on safety:
- More accidents, injuries and illness
- Reduced productivity and delays
- Risk taking by employees
- Lack of knowledge regarding legislation
- Higher insurance costs and compensation pay outs
- Possible damage to workplace materials and equipment
- Permanent damage to the brand
How to communicate safety effectively:
Believe it or not, many people won’t find health and safety as exciting as you, I know, hard to believe, right!? But, its true. So, it’s important that you understand your “audience”, how to get them engaged and keep them engaged. Try seeing them as an “internal customer” and try to understand what will interest them and motivate them.
- Learn to listen as well as talk – communication is a two-way street. You speak about safety, but you also must listen to any concerns (big or small) that employees may have. Understand what is important to them and commit to helping them. Ask them how.
- Be informative – tell employees what they need to know to work safely on site. Knowledge is power!
- Be positive – Yes, health and safety is a serious business, but coming across all serious all the time is only going to get you so far. Be positive in the language that you use when you do communicate, look for the good, the things that have been done along with what the future goals are.
- Explain the “why” – employees need to know the reason why your message is so important. Make it real for them. Give them examples.
It is important to be aware of any barriers that may prevent or hinder your important message.
- Overload of information – while you may be used to the safety jargon and legislation, bare in mind that most employees won’t be. Employees will only be able to absorb so much, so make sure you prioritise your messages and even better, put a plan in place on what you communicate when.
- Clarity – be very clear with your communication. If your message lacks clarity and is confusing, an employee may not actually hear what you had intended them to hear and your message will have been wasted.
- Manage expectations – if expectations are not clearly defined, then you may have the opposite result to your message. Be sure to express clearly what result you expect to happen as a consequence to your communication.
- Hearing, but not listening – employees who confide in you with their concerns deserve to be listened to and not just “heard”. If you communicate a safety message without having listened to employees, then the communication is incomplete and will not be successful.
Ways to communicate your Safety Message:
In today’s digital world, there are many ways to communicate your safety message.
- Send a monthly newsletter via email – if your employees have an email address, this is a great way of popping into their inbox once a month to keep them up to date on what’s happening in the world of health and safety. Keep it short, interesting and fun!
- Notice board – consider an electronic notice board in the canteen or where employees clock in. It could be a rotating info sign every day or week. A poster type notice would work well here. Be creative and use video or fun graphics to reinforce the message.
- Toolbox talks – these off the cuff, non-formal meetings can work really well in the workplace. Try and make it a routine talk, covering a different but relevant topic each week/month. Keep them short.
- Safety comment cards/tags – put the onus on employees to report any unsafe acts or safety hazards that they come across. You could put this up on your company intranet to make it easy for people to report.
- Share case studies or incident reports – it’s important for employees to understand the reality of what happens when safety is not considered. When you share information about real events and real people, employees are more likely to take notice.
- European Safety Week – this usually runs in October and is a great way to get employees involved all week long. Run a competition, host info talks about health and wellbeing etc. If October doesn’t suit, then run your own one during the year.
- Take pictures of safe actions – while it might be tempting to highlight the unsafe actions (these are important too!), its nice to promote the positive actions that employees are taking every day to stay safe. A picture is worth a thousand words! You could include it in your newsletter and emails.
The most important thing is to remember the potential for good communication. Don’t underestimate the power of a well-crafted safety campaign for supporting your safety initiatives. Safety is not just another part of your business, it is about caring about your people and showing them that they are indeed worth it. Get good at producing messages that really resonate with employees, if you want their buy-in for health and safety.
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