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5 Ways Strong Internal Communications Keeps Workers Safe

Nov. 3, 2023
Companies that want employees to be safe must clearly communicate plans, updates, trainings and other efforts to protect employees.

How is information communicated at your organization? Are there regular updates about organizational activities and events? Are there training sessions and workshops on useful, relevant topics?

All of these forms of communication help build your organization’s communication culture. This includes not only what information is shared, but how the message is dispersed—as well as employees’ receptiveness to the information.

Organizations and employees talk with many people in any given day: stakeholders, clients, customers, vendors, governmental agencies, etc. Communications are broken down into two main categories:

  1. External communications is the distribution of content to external parties, such as the public and the media.
  2. Internal communications includes the information exchange within a company and throughout the team.

Internal communications encompass a variety of messages, including corporate policy updates, staff newsletters and all-staff emails, among others. These messages can be optimized and leveraged to improve your workplace safety program and, in the end, the well-being of your team members.

A Range of Internal Channels

You can also develop internal communications with occupational health and safety (OHS) matters in mind. These materials are created around a safety objective to protect people. Therefore, they should be a priority for organizations.

With so many different types of content and information that need to be communicated internally, employers and managers need to leverage all available channels to make sure their key messaging is communicated properly. This is more important than ever thanks to the increase in remote work across the globe. As such, the options for internal communications have grown significantly as well.

For OHS needs and challenges, several internal channels are essential, including:

  • Internal blogs that can provide long- or short-form content on a range of safety issues.
  • Instant messaging that allows for real-time communication amongst staff and managers.
  • Staff-only social media pages where work-related discussions can take place.
  • Employee surveys that provide valuable insight into how their safety can be better.
  • Employee newsletters that regularly update staff on important OHS and other company matters.
  • Discussion forums where employees can discuss work-related and non-work-related issues.
  • Project management platforms where ideas are exchanged, and documents and files can be shared.

Each form of communication has its pros and cons as well as a degree of appropriateness in making sure the right people get the right message when they need it most. Here are five ways that safety professionals can play an integral role in improving your occupational safety program.

1. Emergency Planning

One of the reasons emergency planning should be a priority for internal communications is that it can help you prepare for the unexpected, be it a natural or man-made disaster, or something in between.

When developing an emergency action plan, it is imperative that all levels of the organization are connected internally to collect and document their valuable input. Likewise, when the plan is complete, the document must be distributed internally, and the value of this plan to staff must be communicated clearly. The plan needs to be frequently updated and easily accessible to employees, whether they are working in warehouses, the office, the field or somewhere else.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires most employers to have an emergency action plan with certain information, such as procedures for emergency reporting and emergency contacts.

2. Safety Hazard Reporting

The most effective eyes and ears to detect any occupational hazards are your people performing their jobs at the actual worksites. Safety professionals may consider providing a channel and means for employees to internally report any safety hazards they might see or anticipate while working.

Safety hazard reporting should be simple and accessible, such as a designated email or online form, that can help the employer mitigate safety hazards before someone is hurt. Before such an internal communications pathway is created, safety professionals need to clearly explain to employees how they can report safety hazards and other information required.

3. Accountability and Compliance

Strong internal communications keep everyone updated and educated on new safety protocols as well as pertinent OHS legislation and regulations. This will help the organization remain compliant with OHS legislation at the federal and state level while protecting its employees from harm.

Safety legislation and regulations can be difficult to understand and written with jargon. Therefore, the employer must directly communicate the benefits of this legislation to staff, so they understand why they are practicing a new safety measure or protocol. This not only ensures that employees will get on board much quicker; it also ensures an organization meets OSHA’s requirement to communicate safety information in a way that employees can understand.

4. Safety Training and Education

Safety training is an influential communications vehicle for educating employees on safety practices and habits. Engaging safety training can strengthen not only OHS knowledge, but relationships amongst employees and with the employer.

All forms of safety education, whether it’s hands-on training or a mandatory online course, need to communicate why this information will benefit employees’ safety while at work. It’s also imperative that safety professionals deliver the message in more than one way to accommodate employees’ learning preferences and needs. Sporadic testing is key because it helps determine retention of information and when refresher training or even microlearning could help make the workplace safer.

5. Team Morale and Safety Culture

Arguably the biggest benefit, improved team morale, will result in happier and safer employees who experience a comradery with their co-workers when it comes to their work safety. Communicating new safety practices will keep the organization updated, but doing the same with safety milestones and positive news will keep them engaged and in agreement about their work safety.

A solid safety culture is also critical to building psychological safety, so that workers feel comfortable enough to be themselves and speak up about safety issues. Every employee wants to go to work knowing that their voice matters and their safety is a priority for their employer and co-workers. Fostering strong internal communications is one way to help bolster that culture.

Stay Connected

No matter which channels you choose to internally communicate safety, make sure they are accessible and easy to use. The ultimate goal is to keep your organization connected so that employees have the information and resources needed to stay safe while working. This can mean communication technology and devices, a monthly newsletter as well as in-person opportunities, such as workshops.

However you choose to pursue strong internal communications, make sure you check in and talk to your team to see what’s getting across, what’s resonating and what needs to be improved. It’s both what you say and how you say it that matters, especially when it pertains to doing the job safely.

Gen Handley is a marketing and growth coordinator for SafetyLine Lone Worker, an automated, cloud-based lone worker monitoring service that has helped companies protect remote or isolated workers for more than 20 years. Gen has more than 10 years of freelance writing and marketing experience.

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