Social Media: Powerful Tools for SH&E Professionals
- Pamela Walaski (JC Safety & Environmental Inc.)
- Document ID
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- Professional Safety
- Publication Date
- April 2013
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 40 - 49
- 2013. American Society of Safety Engineers
- 0 in the last 30 days
- 59 since 2007
- Show more detail
Over the more than 100 years that SH&E professionals have been actively engaged in protecting people, property and the environment, roles and responsibilities have evolved to meet the needs of changing times. Many have assumed expanded roles that include environmental and security concerns; some long-held postulates about injury causation have been debunked; a fundamental change in paradigms that mandate the focus on prevention through design has emerged; and sustainability as a key driver in organizational strategy is part of ongoing discussions. Now it is time for SH&E professionals to embrace a new way of communicating with their audiences—social media.
It is no longer a matter of whether a company should utilize social media to communicate with audiences, but rather how and with what platforms. Social media is becoming such an integral part of business operations that its use is now commonplace for product launches, developing consumer loyalty and sharing news. Citizen journalists use social media to instantly provide information to their followers and the general public, often hours ahead of traditional media. A recent survey by American Red Cross (2012) found that social media sites are the fourth most popular sites for obtaining information during an emergency.
ASSE Foundation Chair and self-proclaimed "digital whisperer" Fay Feeney (2012) summarizes the current situation: "Do you know someone who brags that they don’t text, tweet or care about social media? I like to diplomatically tell these folks their digital zipper is down, and it is not helping them look relevant."
Savvy SH&E professionals understand the power of communicating with their audiences, whether the internal workforce, organizational management, vendors/suppliers, community members and other groups that rely on fast, frequent and accurate messages to relate to and understand the organization they represent. Given that their audiences and the organizations they work for are using social media at an increasing rate, SH&E professionals must do the same as they strive to continually add value.
SH&E professionals have welcomed and embedded technology into their day-to-day duties; from software that tracks training and injuries to audit formats that provide a snapshot of continuous improvement to customized dashboards that show multiple data streams on one screen.
This article advocates for the integration of social media into many facets of organizational activities, most notably in crisis communications. It addresses how social media provides an accessible format for communicating in real time with the types of messages audiences are seeking. It offers a balanced overview of the pros and cons of using social media and discusses a sensible social media policy that will help guide organizational activities. Examples of social media successes and failures highlight lessons learned as well.
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