Effective safety communication is the foundation of a healthy organisational safety culture. Poor communication has resulted in deficiencies in many organisations leading to significant implications such as increased costs, preventable incidents and inefficiency.
Poor communication is caused by various issues such as lack of information and knowledge, poor communication patterns, barriers to communication, failure to listen or understand others’ needs, time pressure and failure to set clear goals and expectations.
How do we communicate within our organisations? Are we communicating effectively? There are four basic styles of communication, namely: Dominant/Aggressive, Passive, Passive Aggressive, Empathic/Assertive
Dominant/ Aggressive: characterised by verbally abusive behavior. The individual is usually overbearing, inconsiderate and advocates their needs in a way which violates others, for e.g. public criticism of others and lack of openness to feedback.
Passive: characterised by meek, indirect verbal behavior. These individuals do not express their true opinions or feelings, they fail to assert themselves and remain quiet when being treated unfairly.
Passive-Aggressive: characterised by sarcastic, gossipy behavior. These persons appear passive on the surface but act out of anger in subtle, indirect ways such as sabotage to get even.
Assertive/empathic: characterised by individuals who clearly state their opinions and feelings and advocate for their rights and their needs without violating others. They are usually compassionate and considerate and get inputs from others when making decisions. Assertive communicators are the most effective and that is what we should aim for. They welcome feedback, remain receptive, avoid getting defensive and they don’t harbour resentment. Overcoming the use of maladaptive styles of communication should lead to an improvement in safety performance. In addition, we should investigate the barriers to communication and try to customise safety information. Repeat your messages via different methods. Tell stories of real life workplace situations. Follow-up on issues. Lead by example and be a role model. Be tactful and use positive language. Explain the benefits of safety and how it impacts them and their families.
Develop a communication plan; identify what your objectives are. What do you want to achieve? Determine the timeline, identify resources needed and then get management commitment. In developing the plan, methods of communication are important such as training, safety reports, newsletters, signage, rewards/recognition program, tool box meetings etc.
Use effective communication to develop a culture of safety excellence.
- Set the stage for conversation, reinforce good work and maintain a non-threatening approach.
- Explain safety statistics; get employees involved in what is happening. Use visuals.
- Customise safety information.
- Repeat your messages via different methods.
- Tell stories of real life workplace situations.
- Follow-up on issues.
- Lead by example and be a role model.
- Be tactful and use positive language.
- Explain the benefits of safety and how it impacts them and their families.