Good Communication in Safety Management: Why It’s Important

“Good communication.” It’s one of those terms that’s tossed around so often in the context of management and workplace culture that it barely resonates anymore.

As safety managers, you’ve undoubtedly been told that good communication is important. But what exactly does good communication mean? What does it look like? And how do you know if you’re succeeding at it? Here are the basics:

WHAT IS GOOD COMMUNICATION?

Good communication is clear.

Make sure your expectations are clear, and important issues are addressed concisely on their own, not blended with other topics, to avoid confusion. Just remember: clear doesn’t mean terse. You can be direct without being pointed.

Good communication is consistent.

When you send your team mixed messages, they’ll eventually make their own judgement call as to which one to follow. Not only is this dangerous as it may lead to the wrong call being made; it’s also not fair to put that responsibility on them.

Good communication is responsive.

If you leave your team hanging every time they have a question, comment or concern, they will eventually stop coming to you. Responding quickly, thoroughly and with a genuine interest build relationships.

Good communication is adaptable.

Different members of your team will respond better to different approaches, so you’ll have to adapt in order to be effective. Be prepared to try different approaches to communicate new information, including in writing, with examples or with visuals.

Good communication is being approachable.

Don’t be “that” manager. Managers who are terse, dismissive, aloof, condescending, irritable or too stern don’t inspire cooperation within their teams. When you communicate in a friendly and approachable way, your team will want to do their best for you.

HOW DO YOU PRACTICE GOOD COMMUNICATION?

Listen first

Communication is a two-way street. Have conversations, not monologues, with your team. You’ll get a better sense of who they are, what motivates them and how best to help them succeed.

Plan ahead

When you have important information to communicate--such as a new policy or procedure--don’t drop it into unrelated or multi-topic conversations. Know what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it, and prepare yourself for the types of questions your team may have.

Confirm understanding

It’s amazing how often two people can have a conversation and each walk away with a completely different understanding of what was said. When communicating something important, have your employee repeat it back in their words so that you can make sure you were clear. If they’re not on the same page, change your approach rather than repeating yourself.

Follow up

Following up on conversations not only allows you to confirm that action items are being taken care of; it also lets your employees know that you’re paying attention to what they’re saying.

WHY IS GOOD COMMUNICATION IMPORTANT?

It helps you avoid confusion and conflict

Poor communication leads to misunderstandings, and misunderstandings can escalate to damaged relationships, improper procedures or dangerous behaviour. Good communication keeps everyone on the same page.

It brings the team together

When you and your team can communicate well with each other, it creates a workplace driven by empathy, mutual understanding, accountability and learning. Who doesn’t want to be part of that team?

It inspires trust

Employees who don’t trust you do things their own way even when it’s risky, hide important information from you, and feel uncomfortable asking you for help. Teams that trust each other flourish, and that trust starts with open, honest and empathetic communication from you.

It helps prevent incidents

So often accidents and near misses on a worksite are the result of people not properly communicating with each other about their tasks and their environment. By fostering a culture of constant communication, you can prevent serious incidents and injuries.

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