Are You Talking About Safety to Me?
In my work as a motivational safety speaker and communication speaker, I know that everything contributes to safety. The safety negotiation as I call it demands that safety and communication go hand-in-hand. However, safety communication is an art as well as a skill. It must be practiced in every meeting and situation.
Not long ago, I witnessed an interaction in a company that illustrates the good, bad and ugly about safety communication.
It was a food company in the Midwest. I had the privilege of touring the plant at the invitation of the organization’s meeting planner. It was like coming home. I started my career “on the factory floor.” I feel comfortable in safety glasses and a hard hat.
There were two huge production lines and at least 100 workers. The company was rolling out a new product and – great news, there was a strong demand. The workers were on overtime shifts.
Suddenly, one of the lines sounded an alarm and shut down. The shift supervisor, who was swamped with paperwork in the small office off the floor, heard the alarm. Within seconds, he grabbed his hard hat and charged out onto floor to help out. In his rush, he left his safety glasses on the desk.
Unbeknownst to the supervisor, the plant manager was touring the huge area with several marketing and sales executives. He comes up to the shift supervisor within earshot of at least 25 people and yells, “Where the hell are your safety glasses?” The shift supervisor apologized, but the plant manager kept up his attack. As the shift supervisor went back to his office, I saw the plant manager actually wink to the executives.
As a safety and communication speaker I know the plant manager was technically correct. However, “his show” not only embarrassed the shift supervisor, but will probably have long-term negative impacts.
Ripples in the Safety Pond
The plant manager could have handled the situation differently. He could have said, “Let me run and get your safety glasses for you.” The small production office was less that twenty-five yards away. It would have brought a sense of calm to the scene and still reinforced the safety code. The shift supervisor would have thanked him and that would have been the end of it.
The safety communication message could have even been reinforced in front of the executives as, “We’re very safety conscious here and as you can see, all of the workers wear protective equipment.” He could have even complimented the workers who were, at that minute, struggling to get the line up and running again.
None of that took place.
In numerous studies it has been shown that droning lectures or posters “appealing to reason” rarely communicates the safety message. People in every aspect of the company, from the marketing department to the machinists, must all be on-board with safety.
When workers don’t take the safety communications message to heart, they give up trying or even hide other infractions or shortcuts. Those who ultimately make companies work, be they in construction, manufacturing, transportation, healthcare or any other area where safety is vital, need to move closer rather than farther from the responsibility of staying safe.
Safety communication has the power to help or hurt. It is a choice every organization must make.
Contact Mike Hourigan, Motivational Safety Speaker and Communication Speaker. For more information on hiring Mike for your next meeting, call today at: (704) 875-3030 or by filling out the form below.