Everyone is at risk of distraction, complacency or an injury-inducing error. In many cases, someone sees the unsafe behavior or hazardous condition before an accident occurs, so the accident could have been prevented if someone had intervened. Intervention requires a conversation. So how do you talk about safety…
We know safety is important. Our safety, our lives. What could be more important? And yet, it remains one of the most difficult discussions to have. Why is that? The problem is not so much the message but how we deliver it.
Before we can learn the best way to deliver a safety message. First, we must know/understand why a worker might be reluctant to listen. There are several possible reasons, such as:
- People don’t like to be told what to do.
- People don’t believe there is any real danger.
- People overestimate their ability to handle risk.
- People inherently believe it couldn’t happen to them.
So how do we control the message delivery?
When we are asking someone to change their ways, perhaps even long-standing habits, he or she is likely to be resistant. Before speaking, consider your audience and the message. What does that person care about? What is their motivation? Tailor the conversation accordingly.
Remember, communication is a two-way conversation. Don’t do all the talking. Ask questions. Listen to the worker’s perspective. This can give you insight into their motivations.
Be persuasive! Don’t just tell them what to do. Nobody likes to be told what to do. And most people will resist that. Instead, give them the reasons why. The reasons we are so concerned for safety is a person’s well-being. Demonstrate care and concern.
Plan for the safety intervention before there is a need for it. This is best done organically as a one-on-one conversation. Acknowledge that you might do something unsafe or be in a hazardous situation. Give permission to be corrected. Ask for individuals to watch out for you. And offer to do the same for them. Then should a situation arise, there isn’t a feeling of intrusion.
No more safety police! When workers feel like they are being police, they only hide their unsafe behaviors. There is not opportunity in this circumstance for collaboration and growth. The message cannot be presented as scolding or lecturing.
Be specific without expressing judgement or disapproval. This provokes a defensive reaction. Instead, list the specific behavior or condition and give feedback on the risks involved and the benefits of adjusting for safety.
Lead by example. Follow the policies and procedures. Don’t make yourself an exception or make excuses for why the rules don’t apply to you. Worker’s will follow your example.
Culture in the Workplace
Ultimately, people often respond to the overall culture the company and more specifically the safety culture. If there isn’t a value of safety or collaboration, success will be limited. If there isn’t a culture that promotes asking questions, then people won’t ask questions, or speak up.
The more conversations we have with workers about safety, the more we will impact the overall safety culture and the individual safety of the workers.
At ReSolve, we have safety professionals who are able to give personalized direction on safety culture and programs to assist your company and workers. Contact us for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.