Let's take a look this year as to how we motivate and communicate safety on many levels. We obviously communicate safety in what we say. We communicate safety in many other ways, what we do, how we do it, also the timing of when we say things sends a message. In this paper, I will discuss some of the things I have discovered that successful safety communicators do in order to make sure they convey a congruent and effective message.
When witnessing an incident involving major property damage, asking if anyone was hurt prior to inquiring about the extent of the equipment or property damage, tells people you really value safety. I have had the privilege of standing next to an executive vice-president of a major utility company at the moment they received a report of an explosion at one of their facilities. Without a moment of hesitation, the first words out of his mouth were, "Is everyone there ok?" This spoke volumes. It told me that the greater concern of that executive was people rather than property.
It doesn't take a major incident to illustrate this point. Leaders who are committed to safety make people the first thing about which they always talk. It is the consistent message that drives the point home. I was at a safety conference in the last twelve months where it took over an hour and a half for someone to say, "We don't want to see you hurt." Even then they only said, "We don't want you to be a statistic." I guarantee you that every employee at that conference definitely got the message that their leadership was only interested in profits and production.
We have all been to safety meetings where someone asked a plant manager or supervisor a safety question which couldn't be answered at that time. Leaders that are committed to safety convey that commitment by following up and answering those questions as quickly as they would answer a production question asked by the corporate office. To delay answering only increases the likelihood that the next safety meeting will arrive and embarrassingly, the question will come up again or it will be forgotten altogether. I would recommend getting back to the person who asked the question immediately and then conveying the answer to all others present at the next meeting so they know you followed up. This builds your leader's credibility.
Have you ever thought of yourself as a salesperson? Maybe that is what we really do in the safety field, sell people on the idea of working safely. For a salesperson, serving the customer's needs and closing the sale is the outcome. For us, serving the employees and getting them to work safely is our outcome. If you think of it, both require that you get someone else to take action.