Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Communicate About Safety By Starting Conversations

©iStockphoto.com/Peter Booth
OSH managers are tasked with communicating safety to departments, management and employees, which can be a difficult job. Dave Collins of Riskex says that the key to driving safety ownership is to create conversations, rather than implement rules. In his LinkedIn Pulse article, Collins says that while effective communication is crucial to ensuring workplace safety, OSH managers must influence people to effect change, rather than relying on a hierarchical authority. “You might be tempted to set rules and enforce penalties, but this approach can cause workers to view workplace safety and health as the fun police,” Collins says. “It also risks shifting the focus from safety and wellbeing to compliance and box-ticking.”

Do Less, Listen More

Collins touches on the term humble inquiry, which was introduced by Edgar H. Schein in his book Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art ofAsking Instead of Telling. This concept focuses on listening, understanding and communicating as an effective strategy to involve people, rather than instructing them. Part of humble inquiry is helping others understand the risks that are associated with what they are doing. Examples of this could be asking workers questions such as:
  • What do you have ahead of you today?
  • What things do you think could go wrong?
  • Let’s imagine for a minute something could go wrong. What might it be?
Answers from these questions will help OSH managers better understand how employees make decisions, and starting these conversations will lead to better ownership and personal accountability for safety by the workers themselves, Collins says.