What's the most important factor in implementing a world-class safety program for your organization? Communication. Without it, the most well thought out safety program will be nothing but a good idea. As a safety leader, you need to have the safety communication skills to encourage people to work at the safest level. These skills will help to influence your workplace to buy into your company's safety vision.
The most important thing to remember is that when you change someone's attitude, you change his or her destiny. That couldn't be more true when it comes to workplace safety.
When the lines of communication are open, not only is it easier to implement a new safety program but it also becomes much easier to solicit feedback and gain valuable safety insights from your team on the ground.
Why Is Communication So Important For Safety?
Communicating isn't just about informing employees of rules and regulations. It's about creating an environment where all voices are important and all employees are encouraged to speak up and be accountable for their own safety. This open dialogue is key, as it allows information to flow freely between employees and safety managers. When this communication is broken, important information rarely gets relayed to the appropriate person.
An interesting fact about human behaviour is that when we are in distress the body will learn to adapt and avoid. This type of behaviour is common on job sites with poor communication. Employees say nothing about a potentially unsafe condition because they feel nothing will be done. It seems easier to just work around the danger. It's not safer though.
Using strong communication skills to change engrained behaviour can be a challenge. While humans have a natural tendency to learn and stay safe, sometimes advanced communication tactics need to be used to encourage this behaviour. That's where the psychology of communicating comes in.
The best way to take an idea or thought from the back of a person's mind and place it at the front is by making the concern active. For example, if you have noticed a pattern of unsafe behaviour involving a piece of machinery that could easily remove a limb, ask the employee how they would feel if they lost a hand due to a workplace incident. Getting directly to the point and bringing the overlooked safety concern to the forefront of that person's mind is the best way of instigating that change.
Not only does this direct communication tactic hammer home the point on job site safety, it shows employees that their safety managers are genuinely concerned about keeping them safe. Studies have shown that employees are more likely to be productive workers when they feel their employers have their backs and support them, and open communication can be one of the most visible ways to show your employees that their feedback is invaluable.
By keeping the lines of communication crystal clear, no safety challenges are too great. Communicating expectations, procedures and consequences will show your team that you care, and that should help remind them that they need to care too!