Communication allows people, tasks, processes and systems purposefully and cooperatively to achieve the safety objectives for which they have been designed. The way we communicate about safety influences whether or not workers will understand and participate in the safety process. The language used for communication determines whether the safety processes of an organisation get accepted by its employees or not.

Repeated and continuous communication may be necessary to provide motivation for employees to switch to safer methods and techniques and to encourage people to take responsibility for their own safety and that of others around them at their workplace. 

Building a Safety Culture Through Enhanced Communication

Communication and consultation at work are integral to achieving a safe work environment by giving and receiving information about hazards and risk controls, influencing attitudes and behaviours, and building commitment and ownership. The table below gives a summary of the communication elements that provide the practical strategies to achieve a positive safety culture.

Safety Culture Element


Communication Element

Putting in place methods for controlling hazards
  • Everyone shows support
  • Displaying rules and procedures to remind everyone to work safely
Management commitment to minimising risks in the operations, and complying with all relevant health and safety legislation
  • Accept responsibility
  • Become involved in safety
  • Provide resources
  • Change attitude to risk
  • Demonstrating the employer’s personal commitment, values and expectations
  • Supervising and monitoring work performance
Employees contribute most effectively in an organisational culture based on trust and cooperation
  • Atmosphere of trust, encouragement and reward in terms of HSE
  • Assessing competency and providing revision of training when required
  • Providing feedback
  • Motivating staff
  • Recognising and rewarding achievement
Employees must be provided with the necessary information and training to broaden their knowledge and to gain new skills to behave and operate safely
  • Willingness and competence to implement reforms and changes
  • Providing instructions on how to work safely with equipment, tools, materials and processes
Employees contribute most effectively in an environment that provides a framework for consultation and communication
  •  Individuals encouraged and prepared to report errors and near-misses
  • Meeting to discuss HSE issues such as hazard and incident reports, risk assessments and operating procedures

Improve Your Safety Communication

Commonly used communication techniques by businesses are presentations to senior management, staff, safety committees, emails, team meetings, poster displays and newsletters. It is important that each method needs to be customised given the situation and the organisation. Here are some techniques that will help organisations in getting their message across easier and retaining it longer.

1. Begin by explaining the current safety status. In order to achieve change, it is important that the stakeholders know where they stand currently. Presenting the current situation via charts, diagrams, infographics help paint a picture. People may not realise the gravity of the situation until they see the facts and figures with their own eyes. Use simple but clear messaging and make sure it reaches to everyone across the organisation.

2. Customise your safety information. Your organisation may have various plants, processes, offices. Make sure that you talk to them about their safety requirements. The safety needs of a manufacturing plant are likely to be different from the administrative set-up. Talk to them about their safety records and the employees are likely to get more involved in the safety process.

3. Ensure that the safety benefits are conveyed to the staff. Let them know the thought process behind, the features and the benefits to the staff of all new safety programs being rolled out in their locations. Make them aware of the training, if any, that they will receive and the changes that are expected from the new roll outs and how they will be affected by them.

4. Tell Stories. This tool helps people in relating to the messages and thereby retaining them better. These stories may be from personal experiences of people. Real-life workplace stories help build an emotional connect to the information that people need to remember and enhance the importance of the safety message.

5. Reinforce your message. It is important to keep repeating safety messages through different media at various points of time. Posters used can be rotated. Your floor mats can be another method to reinforce the message. With a managed mat rental service like Alsco, the communication on the mat can be changed with every service so that the same message is reinforced in different ways.

6. Make the process participative. Get people to actively involve themselves during the communication process. Let them ask questions, get involved in the making of the posters, ask them to volunteer for demonstrations of safety processes, fire drills, etc., let them speak out their fears and concerns regarding the existing and new processes being rolled out. Seek feedback from them regarding the messaging process. Active involvement of colleagues and co-workers makes the process participative and the communication achieves better results.

7. Use positive words. The choice of language and words can have a profound influence on the outcome of your communication efforts. Choosing positive words is like to get better feedback from the staff.

Negative Phrase                               Positive Phrase
What’s the problem?                           How can I help?
You should have….                              From now on….. Or Next time……
You don’t understand                         Let me run through that again
I’ve told you before not to…..            How about trying it this way
This will cost money                           This is an investment in your health and wellbeing

Avoid complaints about or criticisms of a single individual, a group, a committee. Sometimes the process of getting change adopted can be frustrating. However, do not let your frustration show to other participants or it will affect them negatively. Keep up your spirits for faster and quicker results.

8. Set clear goals and targets. Let there be clarity about the expectations from the process. Break down the process into smaller steps, each with its own clear goal and target. Communicate and celebrate the achievement of each of these steps to keep up the momentum toward the final goal.

9. Correction should be quick. There is always scope for improvement in any process. Should you need to make an improvement, take corrective steps or make some changes, remember to communicate these clearly to all the stakeholders. However, in case another stakeholder makes a mistake, correct that in private.

10. Reward and Recognise. Safety is an ongoing process. In order to keep the momentum going, it is important to have rewards and recognition for the high performers of safety. Sharing their stories via newsletter so that their best practices can be adopted by other parts of the organisation as well.

Have you used any of these methods before? Are there some other techniques that you find useful. Connect with use via Facebook or Twitter to let us know what you think.

With Alsco’s revolutionary ChromoJet printing technology, you can design and custom print your own safety messages on the mats. And lest you forget, you get a 2 week free trial for Alsco Mats. So don’t lose out on this opportunity.

Image Courtesy: mtaphotos