Best in class companies are concerned with the safety, health, and welfare of their employees. Workplace safety is the keystone of business success. For over a decade, I have collaborated with workplace safety managers, and I’ve learned that creating a strong workplace safety culture has its roots in effective communication.
Here are four tips to ensure your safety messages result in a safe workplace.
1. Say it in many ways
Each person learns through different means, so provide your workforce with different types of safety messages:
Hang posters in high-traffic areas: change them often, and keep them bright and eye-catching
Create safety videos or find them on the internet
Role play (think fire drill)
Provide hands-on learning scenarios
Sing a safety song (yes, they’re a thing!)
Get creative with messaging, but always keep the language simple and clear, and avoid jargon. Encourage your staff to ask questions. If a safety message hasn’t gained traction, figure out why and amend it. Humor always grabs attention. Even with a dry and serious subject like safety, you can infuse some lighthearted silliness. This will help make messages stick. For inspiration, do a quick search of YouTube. You’ll find many examples of funny but effective safety messages.
2. Say it every day
Repetition, repetition, repetition. Safety protocols should be second nature so, in the heat of the moment, employees automatically make the right choice. This is why most of what astronauts do is role play through disaster scenarios (to learn about that, I suggest Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life On Earth). It’s why fire fighters train every day—so they can be ready for those key moments when they’re called on to save lives and homes in chaotic, dangerous situations.
Your daily message can be a short and focused. Consistency is what’s important. Perhaps send a short email to ask that everyone makes sure nearby walkway areas are free of clutter, which is a trip-and-fall hazard (a shockingly common cause of workplace injuries). Or ask workers to locate the closest defibrillator or emergency exit. You decide. A call to action is always useful.
3. Get everyone involved, and get specific
No one likes to be told what to do. People want to know the tasks they’re asked to complete have meaning, and are worth their time and effort. Let employees know why the protocols you’ve chosen are important for them.
Request volunteers to be workplace safety champions. You can’t be everywhere all the time; enlist help. Create a suggestion box and let employees know your door and inbox are always open for feedback. Empowering people helps achieve compliance.
Every workplace has its own unique safety needs. By getting your workforce involved, you’ll be able to home in on those specifics. This also means going beyond what the law demands. While OSHA guidelines are helpful, they’re a baseline. Set your own high standards.
4. Establish rewards, and consequences
Reward safety done right. Create incentives. Maybe send out a safety quiz and the first five people who get 100% win a gift card. Host a BBQ or lunch to celebrate injury-free weeks or months. Acknowledge employees who make the extra effort to maintain a safe workplace.
Remember that injuries are expensive, so a little investment in making sure they don’t happen will always pay off. Consider, a laceration costs a business, on average, $41,000! Think of how many nice things you could do for your team with every laceration avoided.
On the flip-side of rewards is the less appealing task of enforcing consequences. Not everyone will follow safety protocols. To establish an injury-free space, you must enforce a zero-tolerance policy around noncompliance. It sounds strict, but this works. Injuries are preventable, if the right protocols are put in place and followed.
There are no perfect or one-message-fits-all ways to share safety protocols. It’s an evolving process to address an ever-changing workforce and workplace. Keep your messaging dynamic, current, fresh, and varied to keep people safe.
TJ Scimone founded Slice, Inc. in 2008. As CEO, he has pioneered a unique and safer line of cutting tools, from scissors to utility knives, box cutters to craft knives. TJ worked with world-renowned engineers to develop Slice’s proprietary finger-friendly® blade edge and award-winning ergonomic handles. Safety is always the driving factor behind all Slice innovation. Connect with Slice’s Workplace Safety Blog. Connect with @slicetweet on Twitter.