Employee safety needs to be a top priority in all organizations. It’s important that employers have safety policies and procedures in place to create a safe workplace for their employees. But policies are not enough. It takes a concerted effort on the part of management to maintain safety standards and guide and educate workers. Communication is a critical element of workplace safety! To achieve success in health and safety management, there must be effective communication across an organization. This requires planning, selection of appropriate communication methods and a system of monitoring to ensure that the communication processes are delivering the required information to the intended audience in an effective manner.
Why is communication important in workplace safety?
Employers have a legal and moral obligation to provide a safe workplace for their employees. Organizations that don’t invest in employee safety communication may experience injuries, accidents, illness, fatalities, lost workdays, high worker’s compensation and insurance costs, damage to their reputation, a failure to comply with government regulations, decreased productivity, delays, lost revenue and damaged equipment. Employees also have a role to play in making sure they and their colleagues are safe. This is why workplace safety communication is so critical. It isn’t just about telling workers something once and expecting them to remember. It involves clear and precise ongoing communication that affects behaviours, boosts employee engagement, increases awareness of safety issues, prevents accidents and makes safety a part of the company culture.
What types of issues need to be addressed?
There are several safety issues that require addressing. They include but are not limited to:
- Safe operation of equipment
- Safe use of chemicals and hazardous substances
- Safely working at heights
- Identifying and reporting hazards
- How to report incidents
- Mental health and wellbeing
What are the goals?
The fundamental goal of health and safety communication is to provide relevant and accurate information, in clear and understandable terms, to all employees. Safety communication must:
- promote awareness and understanding of the management of health and safety
- promote awareness and understanding of how to mitigate risks
- provide an understanding of the management of health and safety within the organization
- improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the implementation of the safety program
- contribute to the development and delivery of effective information, instruction and learning
- foster trust and confidence in the health and safety management system
- strengthen the relationships and mutual respect among all participants
- exchange information on the knowledge, attitudes, values, practices and perceptions concerning health and safety.
Strategies for workplace safety communication
The following are some tips for effective health and safety communication at work:
- Create a communication plan: Include strategic, actionable goals. Make sure the plan identifies potential safety topics and how and when you will communicate them.
- Target information to the right audience(s): Only send information to the target audience. Too much and irrelevant information causes recipients to ignore details and instructions.
- Schedule shift overlaps (15 to 30 minutes) in order to share information between work teams, particularly safety concerns, hazards, near misses and/or accidents.
- Include safety on the meeting agenda: Include a safety tip on each agenda to ensure employees remember safety requirements. Also, remind them of health and well-being resources offered.
- Use marketing strategies: Utilize the same methods you would for a marketing campaign (videos, displays, posters, signage, etc.). Incorporate slogans and easy-to-remember messages.
- Locate safety signage where it needs to be seen: Place signage near potential hazards and risks as a reminder to workers.
- Provide training sessions: Training is an effective way to actively communicate with employees. Provide clear and easy-to-understand explanations of risks, hazards and protocols.
- Use a variety of communications channels and tools: Communicate regularly using a range of methods (email, newsletter, in-person meetings, signage, pictures, toolbox talks, comment cards, personal reviews, incident reports, case studies, etc.).
- Listen to your employees: Employees have information and views regarding safety. Make communication two-way. Utilize surveys, polls, face-to-face consultation, workshops, focus groups and question and answer sessions.
- Make communication clear and relevant: Safety messaging can be abstract. Make it relevant by sharing actual examples, case studies and indecent reports.