To Improve Safety in the Workplace, Improve Communication

by | 13 Mar, 2018

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Did you know that for every $1 a company invests in workplace safety, there is a resulting $4 return on investment? (Source) Many employers know that they need to be paying attention to safety in the workplace, but are not effectively doing so.

Developing a culture of safety in the workplace is important beyond simply keeping employees safe and ensuring compliance- it can actually help the company save a lot of money, grow faster, and ultimately be more successful. For this reason, all employers should make it a point to develop a strong culture of safety in the workplace, and it all starts with good communication.

Failure to communicate properly and effectively about workplace safety can render any other efforts taken by employers to uphold safety in the workplace useless. Poor communication can have many consequences, including accidents and injuries, loss of productivity, compliance risk, higher workers’ compensation and insurance costs, and damage to the equipment and/or materials.

In years past, communications about workplace safety were often stored in thick binders, and it was a struggle to keep the information continuously updated and accessible. Beyond that, it was very difficult to make communications about workplace safety engaging to employees. Now, with digital communication playing such a big role in the workplace, that has all changed. It is much easier to ensure that this information is always up-to-date and immediately accessible. Furthermore, it is being delivered to employees in more creative, engaging, and ultimately effective, ways. Companies are able to reach all employees, whether they are at their desk in the corporate office, away on a business trip, or working remotely. Through a variety of mediums, employers can now send regular updates in real time on employee safety and performance.  

Of course, there are some key elements that every workforce safety program or strategy should have. One key is training that ensures that all employees understand the hazards and risks they are exposed to, and how to prevent harm to themselves and others. Another key is the training of supervisors and upper management, so that they are aware of their responsibilities and know how to foster a culture of safety in the workplace. And a final crucial element is a clear plan for dealing with hazards should they arise, including how the hazard will be recognized, how it will be handled, and how it will be prevented from occurring in the future.

Here are some tips for effective communication around workplace safety in the digital age:

  • Ensure that communication starts at the top. In order for communication to be effective, senior leadership must set a high standard. Upper management should show a commitment to integrating safety into all business practices. Managers should facilitate conversations that allow employees to ask questions and express concerns regarding workplace safety. They should foster an environment of trust and respect, not one where employees are afraid to speak up about concerns.
  • Make use of various communication channels. Employers now have a vast array of communication channels and tools in their arsenals, and they should be using a variety of them to communicate about workplace safety. These channels include the company intranet, emails, collaboration apps, tablets, social media, digital signage, and more.
  • Survey staff to get an understanding of their perceptions about the safety of the workplace. Ask questions about how safe employees feel at work, how comfortable they feel reporting unsafe working conditions, and how prepared they feel the workplace is, should an emergency occur. Gathering employee responses to questions like these will give employers an idea of where improvements need to be made.
  • Learn from mistakes.  If a workplace incident does occur, it should be used as a learning opportunity. The problem should be addressed as soon as possible, but fixing it is not enough. When incidents occur, employers should start an internal communications campaign that addresses the incident, and what steps are being taken to prevent it from occurring in the future.

In conclusion, taking the time and effort to communicate effectively about safety in the workplace is a worthwhile investment for all employers. Failure to communicate effectively can result in unnecessary incidents and increased risk, which can be very costly to employers. It is best to take a proactive approach to ensuring safety in the workplace, and with digital communication, it is now possible for employers to maintain real-time, up-to-date, engaging communications about workplace safety with all employees.

Tom DiSilva
Tom DiSilva has been providing professional human resource services for over 30 years. As the CEO of Navigate PEO, he actively partners with organizations of all sizes in the Greater New England area and across the country to help their businesses grow. He has expertise in HR and Labor Management, offering guidance and support for key areas of business such as negotiations, operations management, employee coaching, and employee benefits design. He is an active member of The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), The National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO), Professional Association of Co-Employers (PACE), and The American Payroll Association (APA). He is deeply committed to giving back to the community both personally and through Navigate Cares, which provides support for several nonprofit organizations such as the USO, The Boys & Girls Club, and the 3Point Foundation.

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Disclaimer: this article does not represent expert advice and is provided for informational purposes. Please get in touch if you would like expert HR advice.