Communicating safety issues effectively to a diverse workforce is a challenge. As a risk management consultant for many years, I’ve gathered solid information and experience on the best way to communicate safety and workers’ compensation messages to a large and diverse workforce, including organizations with thousands of employees with diverse backgrounds and many different job descriptions.
Before beginning, identify your target audience and the safety message you want to give. The most important thing an employer must do before implementing any safety communication program is meet with employees and supervisors to discover their ideas on what needs to be communicated and how best to do it.
Five Safety Communication Techniques
Identify the specific message you want to communicate. Is the message about getting employees to work more safely around certain equipment? Or is it to provide information on steps to take if they are injured?
Second: Identify the skill set and grade level of your audience. A message to upper management on how to improve commitment to a safety program would be presented differently than instructions to first-line employees on how to report an accident. A general rule of thumb for thinking about language levels is to keep in mind that the Wall Street Journal is written at a first-year college level, while the Reader’s Digest is written at a sixth grade reading level.
Third: Consider job functions and how best to get your message across. Some employees might spend most of their work day in an office or one specific area of a plant. Others may spend it working in different areas of the plant or facility. Still others may spend their day driving from location to location. It’s a good idea to tailor your safety message to the types of safety issues more likely to affect those employees and areas of work.
Fourth: Identify the languages your employees speak. Don’t assume they will be just English and/or Spanish. There may be other immigrant groups, such as Russian or Vietnamese speaking workers. In addition, there are differences within languages, such as Cuban Spanish and Puerto Rican Spanish. Ask management to survey their workers’ languages and provide all safety messages as appropriate.
Fifth: Consider the work environment. If you have a congenial workforce, don’t use a heavy-handed communication style. Save it for a workforce where there may be a lot of discontent and resentment.
Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%.
Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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