Many elements contribute to the successful management of an organization's safety program. In OSHA's fact sheet, "Effective Workplace Safety and Health Management Systems," a checklist of essential tasks stresses that employers should "develop and communicate a safety and health policy to all employees."
In evaluating this checklist, it becomes clear that communication is fundamental to successful program implementation. Many organizations, including the firm I work for, have in-house communication professionals who use available communications channels, such as an intranet, emails and webinars, to disseminate significant safety information to the work force.
Developing and distributing a quarterly safety newsletter can provides a dedicated means of communicating vital safety-related information, including but not limited to: announcing new safety practices and guidelines and reviewing existing guidelines; sharing quarterly accident statistics and trends; encouraging employees to submit safety concerns and questions; raising safety awareness; announcing safety alerts; reviewing the organization's safety resources; providing executives a forum to share safety insights; announcing assessment results; publicizing special emphasis awareness campaigns; reviewing safety equipment specifications; sharing regulatory or compliance updates; announcing company safety awards; and more.
The Newsletter's Value
Since the development of a quarterly safety newsletter within my organization, we have received several unsolicited phone calls and emails from the work force expressing positive feedback and interest in this outreach by the safety office. The responses have been a good indicator of the newsletter's organizational value. The newsletter also has driven an increase in safety activities among the work force concerning in-house safety training, local safety meetings, reviewing the company's safety fact sheets and the safety manual. In addition, using employees' newsletter feedback, new safety resources – including innovative safety practices and safety equipment – have been developed and secured.
It is rewarding to see emails from employees noting safety concerns they have and want to share with others. Submissions and other forms of newsletter participation are encouraged by publicly recognizing employees in the newsletter. Each participant is sent a safety memento for his or her contribution, such as a foam traffic cone with the company's name and logo.
Other elements that have made our safety newsletter successful include:
➠ A pleasing, professional newsletter design template.
➠ Short, easy-to-read articles that in- corporate bullet points.
➠ Simple access via an an electronic server and the ability to easily print and and download.
➠ Current, relevant articles.
➠ The inclusion of employee photos to lend a personal touch.
Perhaps most importantly, the newsletter provides employees a straightforward opportunity to contribute to the company's safety program and culture.
Once you've decided to create a safety newsletter and determined its frequency, consider these tips for successful implementation:
➠ Develop a template, either by working with a graphic designer or exploring available templates in desktop and online publishing programs such as Microsoft Word. Templates make it easy to maintain a professional look. They also provide a simple way to organize articles and graphics. Including digital photos taken during safety inspections, safety meetings, training sessions and other events also help make the newsletter more appealing.
➠ Distribute the safety newsletter to a focused audience within the work force. Our safety newsletter is distributed to a group of employees who are identified as having potential exposure to serious work-related accidents. This list is updated quarterly prior to publication of the next newsletter.
➠ Provide digital access. Ensure that employees have easy access to a digital copy of the current newsletter. Your company's information technology professionals may be able to provide insights regarding ways to improve the newsletter's overall navigation and making the most of its digital format. For example, using a file share instead of sending the newsletter as an attachment frees up limited bandwidth and storage space within the organization. Past newsletter editions can be archived electronically on the company's safety intranet site.
While safety newsletters are not a new idea, digital publishing options have helped us rediscover their immense value. Besides serving as a means to increase safety awareness, knowledge and employee interest, newsletters also help document the organization's safety efforts. Although there are many elements to a successful safety program, evaluating your communication tools and taking advantage of additional options can help develop a more effective safety program.
Dennis Burks, CSP, PE, is the safety director for the HNTB Companies, an employee-owned infrastructure firm. He has a Master of Science degree in industrial safety and an education specialist degree in human services – public services from the University of Central Missouri. He is an adjunct faculty member at the branch OSHA Training Institute Education Center in Kansas City, Mo., a past local chapter president of ASSE and a recipient of the ASSE Region IV Regional Safety Professional of the Year award.