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Safe + Sound Week
When it comes to the characteristics of an excellent safety culture, communication is at the top. It is vital that all levels of management (senior, middle, supervisory) communicate their commitment to safety clearly to workers. It is equally important that workers feel empowered to discuss their safety concerns.
Having a safety culture where workers do not feel like they can speak up at work when it comes to their safety can present significant threats to workers and the overall well-being of the company. A high percentage of workplace injuries occur when a worker witnesses unsafe behaviors or conditions but chooses not to say anything. Those injuries are 100% preventable. However, it requires creating a culture of transparency and openness that encourages staff to look out for each other and speak up when concerns arise—and a culture where team members are not afraid of voicing their safety concerns, no matter how big or how small they may be.
How to Effectively Speak Safety
Workers may be reluctant to accept safety advice for many reasons:
- They don’t like being told what to do.
- They don’t believe they are in danger.
- They perceive safety conversations/assistance as punishment or aggression.
The challenge is to have productive conversations about safety despite these barriers, considering not only what you say but how you say it. For many, this does not necessarily come naturally, which is why effective safety conversations should be taught and practiced.
These tips can help make speaking about safety easier:
- Take a persuasive approach versus a punitive one. Safety conversations shouldn’t be about catching someone doing something wrong. The goal should be safety, not punishment.
- Demonstrate care and concern. It is much more meaningful to show concern for the personal safety of individuals than to reinforce compliance with rules.
- Speak the worker’s language. Think about who you are speaking to and what is important to them. Delivering a safety message to senior management will differ than communicating with field staff.
- Focus on specifics. Avoid expressing judgment or disapproval. When addressing a specific safety behavior or situation, limit comments to that rather than making general statements.
- Listen. Good communication goes both ways. A respectful conversation will involve both expressing yourself and listening to the other person.
- Don’t be intimidated. The fear of a negative reaction is common, particularly when a less experienced person must deliver advice to someone more senior. Remember, no one is immune to safety concerns.
- Lead by example and encourage others to do the same. It is one thing to say that safety is a priority; it is another thing to show that it is.
Sometimes, relying on those around us to help notice and communicate when something isn’t right can provide the best form of safety protection—because no one is immune to safety concerns, safety errors, distraction, or complacency. Improving an organization’s overall safety culture and the atmosphere around safety conversations can make it easier to both give and receive advice in a constructive way and, best-case scenario, save lives.