OSH professionals have a major role in communicating risks to employers and employees at all levels. They need to be technically competent, but that isn't enough; they also need to be good listeners and communicators. Health and safety can be regarded as complex, and it is the job of the OSH practitioners to simplify the messages and make them relevant to the people they advise, using language that will fit into the business culture. Messages need to be tailored to different audiences.

For example, migrant workers may not speak the language of the country fluently and, therefore, may have difficulty in understanding instructions, asserting their rights at work, and seeking help. As a result, they are less likely to report accidents. They may be unable to communicate effectively with other employees, and their understanding of risk may be impaired. In these cases, different ways of communicating need to be found to get the message understood. On the other hand, senior managers or human resource professionals need to be able to hear the business case for health and safety to persuade them to invest both financially and emotionally in health and safety. Workers need to understand how they can integrate safety into their tasks so that any risks are ‘acceptable’. Building trust and credibility is key to successful communication and forming functional alliances helps with this process (Joyce, Hand 2012).

This paper discusses:

  • Why the OSH practitioner needs to get heard

  • What the OSH practitioner needs to communicate regarding acceptable risk and control

  • Who the OSH practitioner needs to communicate with

  • How to choose the best communication channel

  • The need for planning a communication strategy

  • How to get the message across; the skills needed for good communication.

Communication case studies from a public sector utility in the UK and a construction contractor are outlined.

Participants will gain an understanding of the seven Cs of effective communication to appreciate the need to make functional alliances and learn about practical examples of how communication has been improved in companies.

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