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Communications During a Health and Safety Disruption

March 25, 2020
In times like these, communication can make or break your health and safety program.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has taken the United States by storm over the last few weeks. Its presence is unwelcomed, and we can only hope that preventative measures will shorten its stay. With that being said, the Coronavirus pandemic has provided EHS professionals across the country with a timeless reminder, that communication is key!

Public crises like pandemics are fraught with speculation. If we don’t communicate with our teams, they will be left to rely on speculation for their information and guidance. As EHS leaders, during health and safety disruptions, we must provide the structure and channel for communications. Effective and timely communication will:

1. Give employees clear direction.

Change can be confusing and uncomfortable, especially change that is only temporary. Employees need to know what the expectations are when they come into work. Lengthy procedures have their place in an EHS or Emergency Response situation, but when possible, try and boil down the key components into a flowchart or one-page bulletin that can be easily digested and understood by all.

2. Provide them with the “Why.”

“When your why is big enough you will find your how” (Les Brown). In the short run, it may be easier to simply direct people to what needs to be done. However, if employees and managers understand why certain decisions are being made, they will be more motivated to respond and able to provide better feedback. Coach first, manage second.

3. Repeat.

Health and safety interruptions like the COVID-19 outbreak are constantly changing. A communication to our teams on Monday may need to be tweaked and changed slightly by the end of the week. While our overarching message of the health and safety of our employees should remain consistent, some aspects of the response planning might change due to newly discovered information. Make sure your communication channel is open and repeated. Repeated communications at scheduled intervals (i.e. weekly, bi- weekly, etc.) will allow the flexibility for updating your response plan and consistency in the feedback loop.

4. Provide a channel for questions/feedback.

Two heads are better than one. Provide an email, open survey or other forum where employees can ask questions and provide feedback. Many companies are adjusting policy and programs to respond appropriately to the COVID-19 outbreak. Employees and managers alike might be in uncharted waters. A channel for employees and managers to ask questions will help settle their nerves and strengthen your response. If your company has a SharePoint or common area, it is good practice to post questions and answers in a single location where they can be referenced when needed. This will provide access to employees and keep you from answering the same question three different times in three different ways. Keep in mind, if you are going to setup a question and feedback outlet, the responses must be timely! 

In times like these, communication can make or break your health and safety program. Effective and timely communication will go a long way to helping you get your message out, while also providing a system for employees and managers alike to count on for guidance, knowledge, and advice. 

Angelo Cianfrocco, ASP is an environmental, health and safety professional with industry experience as an EHS consultant, Sr. EHS manager and EHS data analyst.

About the Author

Angelo Cianfrocco

Angelo Cianfrocco is a Certified Safety Processional (CSP) and a Process Improvement Leader at Predictive Solutions. Predictive Solutions provides customers with a SaaS based safety observation management software that uses predictive modeling to help drive data based decision making and incident mitigation. Predictive Solution’s Process Improvement Leaders work hand in hand with customers to improve data collection, and overall data utilization to improve safety culture.

For more information on Predictive Solution visit the website at or contact Angelo at [email protected]

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