Safety, safety, safety, we hear it all the time. “Be safe!” What does that even mean? It’s probably the most cliche term used in safety communication today. We all know that safety is a focus, but more times than not we stick to the same routines we’ve been stuck in and resort to a pat on the back and a “be safe.” In order to increase workplace safety we have to be able to communicate something besides “be safe” when we communicate.
Research has shown that 70% of workplace mistakes are the result of poor communication. The proper safety communication techniques can make all the difference in the world when it comes to saving someone’s life or preventing an injury. Here is a list of eight tips to improve your workplace safety communication and hopefully get you out of the “be safe” funk.
1. Be Specific
Avoid using generic statements like “be safe” or “safety first” in your safety communication. These types of statements literally go in one ear out the other. People are so used to hearing them, that they tune them out when they hear them. I don’t think I ever heard anyone say they’ve avoided a catastrophe because someone told them to be safe before their shift started.
Instead, be specific with your statements. If someone is doing a specific task, provide specific advice to that task that will improve their safety and raise awareness.
2. Get Others Involved
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Getting co-workers involved in a like-minded safety mentality is easier than you think. When you open up the dialogue instead of always directing, the results are significantly different. Ask questions, ask for demonstrations, ask for advice. When others feel a part of the process, they are more willing to take ownership in process.
3. Story Time
Don’t forget about the other side of the brain! The left side of the brain gets used a lot in a work setting. It’s used to solve tasks that involve logic, critical thinking, numbers and analytical processing. These are all important strengths, but to really develop a safety mind you need to tap into the right side. To do so, tell stories! The right brain prefers stories. Providing real-life workplace stories are a good way to share past experiences and increase the importance of safety among employees.
4. Language Counts
Avoid negative language at all costs. This includes words like “can’t” and “don’t.” Instead promote a language that is positive, yet informative. Talk about goals and ways to achieve them, rather than things you don’t want. If you keep a focus on your goals and achievements, the negatives will take care of themselves.
5. The Reward System
Changes in behavior and members of your team that are performing at a high level of safety performance deserve to to be rewarded. This should be a public event for the general staff to witness. This is a good way to show the importance of safety to the others and encourage the type of behavior you are seeking.
On the other hand, if you have to reprimand, do it privately. No one likes to made an example of, for the wrong reasons. Reprimanding in public can stall safety progress for the fact that others will be nervous to attempt new procedures or adapt new techniques for fear of being reprimanded.
6. Make the Benefits Clear
Simply telling everyone they will be safer if they do things a certain way is not good enough. Be clear about how certain safety initiatives will effect the staff and their family. Explain the safety implications of not following safety initiative and show that you truly care, not just doing it to look good.
7. Communicate Clear Expectations
When communicating your expectations it is not the time to be vague. If you expect certain results, let them be known with a clear and precise message. If you let staff know what you’re expecting and how you will be measuring it, there will be no surprises in the end.
8. Don’t Forget About Visuals!
Visual communication is the ultimate re-enforcer in your safety initiative. The use of posters and labels to clearly feed your message into the heart of your staff will back up your message with a clear visual reminder for all to see.
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