There are many policies, processes, and programs that make up a company’s overall safety program. One vital program in any safety program is the safety communication program.
This post dives into some things to consider before implementing such a program or even when trying to improve an existing one. Also discussed are methods to use in your safety communication program to ensure your efforts yield the benefits that you are striving for.
What is a Safety Communication Program
A safety communication program is the sum of all activities related to promoting and maintaining interest in workplace safety among all employees. Further below in this post, we discuss activities and methods of communicating safety that are commonly used in a safety communication program.
3 Foundational Items to Consider About Improving this Program
There are many factors to consider when changing or improving any business process or program. Workplace safety is no different. In the next three sections below, we outline a few vital items to consider prior when improving the safety communication program.
1. Buy-in for Safety Improvement Starts at the Top
As a safety professional, or a manager with safety responsibilities, your time and energy only extend so far in improving the safety program. To achieve true success that sustains, you will need a lot of support from others within the organization.
The most vital support comes from upper management. If they are not on board with safety improvement, or the means by which it will be achieved, the possible positive impact your efforts will have is drastically reduced.
Before embarking on improving a facet of your safety program, such as improving safety communication, meet with the higher-level managers to ensure that you have the resources needed to make the changes. Also, working with these managers can ensure that everyone is on the same page, which will drive consistency across the organization.
2. Keeping Communication Frequent and Consistent
Improving any one part of a safety program in a workplace takes time. A key to having a successful safety communication program is making sure that these efforts are frequent and consistent. You cannot hang up one safety poster, send one safety newsletter, or have one safety meeting and call it a day.
It is essential to use a variety of communication methods to set expectations, teach employees, and reinforce your safety messages over time.
3. The Importance of Having a Written Safety Communication Program
Before using the methods of communicating safety below, it is vital to establish a written policy regarding the safety communication program. Any written policy should provide clarity on items such as the goals of the program, the expectations of the program, what efforts are a part of the program, the frequency to which efforts are to occur, and the responsibilities of personnel involved in the program.
The written policy does not need to address every single detail of the program, but everyone within the organization should be able to read the policy and understand what needs to be done. As with any policy, always ensure that the actual work practices follow what is written. Deviation of stated policies can create liability in the event of a loss or injury.
Use Multiple Means of Communication
Now that we covered some of the vital foundational items above, what actual methods should be used to get the company’s safety message across to employees? There is a long list of possible ways to communicate safety. Not every method below needs to be used.
The methods you choose should make sense for your organization. Start by using the items that would be the most impactful for getting your safety messages across to the workforce.
The below items are separated into two categories – active and passive efforts. Active efforts are individuals coming together to learn and communicate in real-time and passive efforts are reminders posted throughout the workplace or distributed to employees in some manner to consume on their own time.
The passive methods normally are meant to reinforce the efforts and messaging that was conveyed during the more engaging efforts previously completed. Using both types of methods ensures that employees do not go long periods of time without frequent safety messages.
Active Safety Communication Methods
A safety committee is a vital part of a safety program. In short, a variety of managers, supervisors, employees, and sometimes third-party individuals meet to discuss safety on a recurring basis. These meetings can significantly increase understanding between levels in the organization, accountability, and discover ways to further bolster safety communication.
The details on a safety committee can be an entire post on its own, so not the specifics will not be covered here, but this PDF from Oregon OSHA outlines what to consider when implementing a safety committee. The PDF addresses items specific to Oregon’s requirements but it also provides a good general overview for these committees.
These meetings are not necessarily formal training sessions. Safety meetings are often short safety toolbox talks that are done at the start of a shift. They may be done less frequently as well, such as weekly or monthly. Browse our 250+ free safety talk topics on this site for your next safety meeting.
Safety coaching is often an informal piece of the safety communication program, but it is integral. Coaching happens in real-time when a supervisor, safety representative, or even a co-worker takes time to communicate safety or teach someone else in the workplace about a safety best practice. Coaching can also entail holding an employee accountable for negative decisions or actions. Holding employees accountable is vital for driving consistency in the safety program.
Passive Safety Communication Efforts
Safety posters are a great way to keep safety messages at the forefront of employees’ minds long after safety meetings or safety training has passed. Posters are a good way to help ensure that workers are reminded of the safety expectations that were previously discussed. Check out our post on how to easily create safety posters for free (or a low cost) by using Canva.
Safety Communication Boards
Like safety posters, a safety communication board can continue to reinforce past safety messages. They are also good for sharing new safety information. These communication boards should be placed in a common area where all employees frequent, such as a breakroom. A variety of resources could be posted on these boards, such as safety talks, lessons learned, industry best practices, safety awards, etc.
Check out our Culture Bits to put up on your safety communication board by clicking here!
Safety Payroll Stuffers
Payroll stuffers are typically simple one-page documents that remind employees about safety. As stated above with the safety communication boards, resources such as safety bulletins, lessons learned, and best practices can be shared with employees.
Safety Training and the Safety Communication Program
You may be wondering where safety training fits into this program since it was not mentioned on the list above. There is not a consensus answer on this topic, but in our view, the safety training program can be considered a separate program entirely from the safety communication program. That being said, there is an obvious overlap between the two.
The safety communication program can be viewed as the efforts to bolster what is taught in training. Safety training often will take place at the time of hire and less frequently throughout the year compared to ongoing safety communication efforts.
On the surface, implementing or improving a safety communication program looks pretty basic. As stated above, there are many things to consider to ensure you have a solid program in place that yields the benefits you are seeking.
Use the information above to set a solid foundation that can help to ensure that you have an impactful safety communication program. Use a variety of the communication methods to provide consistency and frequent messaging to your employees.
Consider Becoming a Member of Safety Talk Ideas
If you enjoyed this post and are looking for more safety resources that can save you time and money, consider becoming a member of Safety Talk Ideas. There are hundreds of resources provided to members to assist them with improving their safety program.