Communication and OHS… The key to Success!
One aspect of health and safety we don’t often mention, but that has a major impact, is communication.
Imagine this situation
You ask a colleague to come help you finish some work and to bring a 6-inch wrench and a screwdriver. You are on the roof, completing an emergency repair. Your colleague grabs the tools and hurries to join you (he has to walk 10 minutes and climb 6 storeys to reach you—the elevators are out of service!). When your colleague arrives, you look at the tools he hands you … and they are not the right ones. In fact, you asked for a 10-inch wrench, but over the radio you were using to communicate, he heard 6-inch. As for the screwdriver, you wanted a flat and he grabbed a Phillips! In a nutshell, a lot of time has been wasted, in a situation where you were already very rushed! You try nevertheless to use these tools but since they aren’t the right ones and that you’re already stressed by the time crunch, you hurt yourself… Nothing major, but it’s an additional waste of time. Does this sound familiar?
Effective communication in the workplace is certainly a very important element. In the context of health and safety, poor understanding of a task or how to carry it out, too often results in incidents. Beyond communicating about tasks, communicating about health and safety must be done simply, in words everyone can understand.
What often happens is that we don’t listen to understand. Rather, we listen to retort! Bad idea! Instead of looking for what to answer, make sure you’ve understood what was being communicated!
Here’s what effective health and safety communication must be like:
Interactive: Don’t just say something and leave. Instead, make sure it was understood to make sure it’s what you had in mind. Also, listen to others, their concerns and their suggestions.
Informative: Make sure to cover the important health and safety elements.
Positive: Focus on positive ideas, not just on the “do nots”. Highlight health and safety aspects that have been done and reinforce these actions.
Productive: Neither too long nor too short, communications about health and safety must be clear, concise, easy to understand and well thought out.
Here are a few important pointers to remember to effectively communicate what you have in mind regarding health and safety to your colleagues:
- Before speaking, take a moment to really think about what you want to say. Be as clear as possible on all points you want to cover;
- Organize your thoughts to present them in a logical sequence;
- Identify what your expectations are following the communication. Do you want actions to be taken? If so, communicate them clearly;
- Keep the communication simple. A clear message will be much easier to understand;
- Be as precise as possible. Use concrete examples and language to explain what you’re trying to say to prevent erroneous interpretations.
In short, be it on a daily basis, for a specific meeting or to broadcast an important health and safety message, the key is obviously good communication!
Occupational Health and Safety Manager