Seven Tips to Improve your Safety Communication
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Seven Tips to Improve your Safety Communication
by: Marie-Claire Ross
When it comes to managing a safe workplace, communication about safety processes
is critical. Yet, so many organisations barely give any thought to the impact of
their safety messages.
Tell-tale signs of poor safety communication include:
- Workers have no clear or consistent understanding of what is expected
from a safety perspective.
- Employees just aren’t listening to safety messages and it’s hard to get
- Safety isn’t being taken seriously with staff avoiding their
- Resistance to change that’s stopping the development of a healthy
workplace safety culture.
What often frustrates safety leaders is that their communication gets
confused or misunderstood.
Frequently, safety messages get misinterpreted with people believing they
think they know what was being said, rather than what was actually said.
This can occur when information is worded and delivered in a confusing way.
The consequences can potentially be very costly. After all, if workers are
undertaking the wrong procedures not only could they hurt themselves, but they
are most likely working in an unproductive manner that wastes time and
That’s why one of the number one skills to learn for any safety leader is
communication. Being able to create clear and simple messages that are instantly
understandable ensures everyone works to a common standard.
While at the same time, if you talk and write in an approachable manner it
will work towards people liking you and in turn, trusting your message.
Seven Safety Communication Tips
When you know how to write and talk about safety in a way that people find
engaging, it ensures that you get everyone on the same page.
Here are seven important strategies to include in all of your safety
- A Simplified Message – One of the keys to clear communication is
that it is simple and easy to understand. This means learning to throw out
redundant information and focus on one core sentence. Our brains aren’t
designed to process lots of information at once. Instead, we need to learn
to create one simple message. Then, repeat it often. For example: Avoiding
stuffing an article about sun protection with research data, examples and
technical specification which can distract from your real message. The main
takeout would be “Wear sunscreen everyday” which is much easier to recall.
Write an article or speech about sunscreen that highlights this central
- Use Positive Language – Make sure you tell people what you want
them to do. Avoid using negative words like “Don’t” or “Can’t,” as people
will just ignore them and remember the next words. For example: “Don’t run,”
often gets remembered as “Run.” Instead, say “Walk”.
- Use Visuals – Avoid lots of talking or writing an article that is
wall to wall text. Use compelling visuals such as photos, diagrams and video
content that help those who are visual learners. This is an effective method
to get people to understand and remember information.
- Explain Why – To assist people in understanding why a new safety
initiative is important, tell them the benefits. Let them know why it is
important and how they will personally benefit. For example, if you need
workers who are working outside to wear safety boots in the heat, let them
know it’s because you don’t want them to get bitten by snakes.
- Tell Stories – The right brain prefers story. It also provides an
emotional connection to information that people remember. Adults love
stories and are more open to listening to them. What real-life workplace
stories can you use that highlight the importance of safety?
- End with Action – Tell people what you want them to do. Always
ensure people are clear on their responsibilities. Make them think about
their current behaviour. For example: A Victorian Workplace Safety ad ends
with the line “Would you do what you ask your workers to do?”
- Be Authentic – Only write and talk about a safety process that
you believe in. Otherwise, people will not trust your message. As a safety
leader, co-workers will follow your actions, not your words. Say you’ve
introduced a new procedure on hand washing. Make sure you also follow the
safety procedure, when on site, as well as politely informing people when
they’re doing it incorrectly (or forgetting). But also ask people how it is
going. Follow up to see if they’re remembering to wash their hands. You
might discover that the soap makes their hands itchy, so you could show that
you care by purchasing an allergy free soap. Once employees can see that you
mean what you say, they will have the confidence to believe you. This means
they will be more open to your messages and trust you.
Safety communication is a continual process that never stops. Constantly
practising and improving your safety communication skills will ensure high
quality safety leadership. This is how you start to get a high functioning
safety culture where people can trust what you say. It also means workers are
more likely to follow your instructions resulting in a happy, safe workplace.
If you want to learn more about how to improve your safety communication
skills, read “Transform Your Safety Communication.” This highly acclaimed book
provides five easy to use templates and frameworks to easily update your safety
messages. Find out more about the book and get your free sample chapter at:
Marie-Claire Ross is the author of the Transform Your Safety Communication
and the Workplace Communicator Blog that’s read by more than 5000 people per
month. As the CEO of Digicast, she
works with BRW Top 500 companies to make safety communication more meaningful.
She has also been interviewed in BRW magazine and on “Technology Behind
Business” for Sky Business News.
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Classification: Management, Communication