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Workplace Communicator Blog

Get regular information at the Workplace Communicator Blog to effectively produce engaging HSE communication that shapes mindsets and behaviours.

3 Critical Areas for Effective Safety Communication

Marie-Claire Ross Mon, Nov 17, 2014
3 Critical Areas for Effective Safety Communication

A Towers Watson study titled Change and Communication ROI, claims that the most important goal of an effective communication program is to motivate both employees and management to act upon, and achieve, the goals set by the organisation.

Yet, most organisations fail miserably at their latest communication launches, including safety.  With only 55% of communication initiatives succeeding initially and only one in four being successful (25%) in changing behaviour long term.

How much does poor Safety Communication Cost Organisations?

Marie-Claire Ross Mon, Nov 10, 2014
How much does poor Safety Communication Cost Organisations?
According to a study by Siemens Enterprise Communications, a business with 100 employees spends an average of 17 hours a week clarifying communication.
This translates to an annual cost of $528,443 (even higher for larger companies).


Where there are communication barriers, due to people misunderstanding information, there are also productivity losses. The same study found that the cumulative cost per worker per year is $26,041 just from communication barriers alone.

5 Mistakes that make your Safety Communication Confusing

Marie-Claire Ross Sun, Oct 5, 2014
5 Mistakes that make your Safety Communication Confusing

Communication is an interesting thing.  No matter how many years you have been talking, writing or even managing other people, your communication abilities fluctuate. 

While it is mostly true that those with concise and clear communication skills are more likely to be promoted to leadership positions, the skills that got you there won't keep you there.

Communication skills are one of those things you have got to be consciously improving on a regular basis.  After all, we can get so lazy in our communication.  Have you ever tried to write a directive email while talking on the phone, before rushing to a meeting?  The chances are your email was unclear and confusing.

Are you Working against how the Brain Processes Safety Information?

Marie-Claire Ross Sun, Jul 27, 2014
Are you Working against how the Brain Processes Safety Information?

One mistake I often see safety professionals do, is that once they have created a new company safety procedure, they get all excited about it and go and tell the next colleague they see.  Usually their workmate has their mind on something else such as they're busy filling out a form or using a machine.

You know you suck at being a Safety Influencer when...

Marie-Claire Ross Sun, Jul 6, 2014
You know you suck at being a Safety Influencer when...

Recently, I was talking to Julie Honore from Safesearch, a safety professional recruitment company that specialise in finding safety staff in Asia, Australia and the Middle East.  She told me that there is a growing demand for sophisticated safety professionals that can coach, influence and engage on safety.

5 Mistakes that Sabotage your Safety Communication Success

Marie-Claire Ross Mon, Mar 17, 2014
5 Mistakes that Sabotage your Safety Communication Success

One of the things I like about my job is consulting with safety professionals on how to improve their safety communication. 

I get to review monthly safety themes and safety articles for the company newsletter and proffer suggestions for improvement.  Often, a complete overhaul is required.

Safety professionals are great at the technical, but struggle when it comes to packaging information for other people to digest.  Sadly, just because you find restraining loads very interesting, doesn't mean others will automatically share your enthusiasm.

From Pain to Gain: How to Convince Employees to Work Safely

Marie-Claire Ross Tue, Mar 11, 2014
From Pain to Gain: How to Convince Employees to Work Safely

Recently, I was talking to a safety consultant who told me about a business he visited a while ago that had staff handling pieces of wood with multiple nails sticking out, while not wearing gloves.

Every day these employees were constantly subjecting their hands to pain, yet, no-one complained.

What's interesting about human behaviour is that when we are in physical pain the body will learn to adapt and avoid it.

Think about the last time you had a sore tooth.  You automatically started eating on the other side of your mouth.

In this company where people were ignoring the daily pain of work, they just got used to it because everyone else was doing it and nobody protested.  Management was okay and would have been open to suggestions (provided enough people let them knew of the issue).

8 Important Supervisor Leadership Qualities for Safety

Marie-Claire Ross Mon, Aug 5, 2013

A quality is part of our personality that comes naturally to us.  For example, you might think of one of your friends as 'always being generous'.  This means being generous is a characteristic or quality that a person has.

While a skill is defined as a learned capability.  A skill is not necessarily something we are born able to do, but it can be learnt.  For example: Being able to communicate clearly is a skill that we learn to do which takes years of practise.

So what are good leadership qualities in supervisors? 

Top 29 Catchy Safety Slogans

Marie-Claire Ross Mon, Jul 1, 2013
Top 29 Catchy Safety Slogans

When it comes to getting staff to remember your important safety messages, using a safety slogan can be an effective way of getting the message through.

But not all safety slogans cut it.  A lot of them are quite bland and well, just not catchy.  Given that we're bombarded with around 3,000 messages a day, your safety slogan will become invisible and ineffective pretty quickly.

To ensure that your workplace safety communication is engaging, you need to have a stand out safety slogan.  When choosing or designing your safety slogan, there are a few things you need to consider, to make sure your safety slogan is memorable.

4 Steps to Communicating Persuasively on Safety

Marie-Claire Ross Mon, Apr 22, 2013
4 Steps to Communicating Persuasively on Safety

Safety professionals often complain about how hard it is to get people to listen to them about safety. This is often a subtle sign that it might be time to change how they approach communicating the need for safe behaviours, rather than getting frustrated that it's not working.  After all, as Einstein said:

Is this the best safety plan ever?

Marie-Claire Ross Mon, Feb 25, 2013
Is this the best safety plan ever?

Back in 1987, every Alcoa plant, worldwide, had at least one accident per week.  It was dangerous work.   Molten metals bubbled at 1,500 degrees and machines that could literally rip off a man's arm were used every day.  It was commonly accepted that some staff wouldn't make it home.

Is this the best CEO Safety Speech ever?

Marie-Claire Ross Mon, Sep 24, 2012
Is this the best CEO Safety Speech ever?

A great safety speech isn't about telling staff to improve safety.  Instead, it's a unique opportunity to motivate staff to work together for a common good.

On a windy day in October 1987, the new CEO of Alcoa, Paul O'Neill, gave his maiden speech to shareholders.  Most CEO's would use this opportunity to get shareholders excited that they were going to focus the company on increasing sales and reducing costs, for improved shareholder return.  But O'Neill was different.

“I want to talk to you about worker safety.”  In an instant, shareholders wondered why he had omitted to talk about improving profits.  After all, Alcoa was in a mess. 

“Every year, numerous Alcoa workers are injured so badly that they miss a day of work.  Our safety record is better than the general workforce, especially considering that our employees work with metals that are 1500 degrees and we have machines that can rip a man’s arm off.  But it’s not good enough.  I intend to make Alcoa the safest company in America.  I intend to go for zero injuries.”

Why Great Workplace Safety Professionals are Artists

Marie-Claire Ross Tue, Sep 4, 2012
Why Great Workplace Safety Professionals are Artists

The best safety professionals that I've worked with like safety.  They read all the right safety magazines and go to all the right safety conferences.  But that's not what gets them out of bed in the morning.  What they're really passionate about, and what makes them stand out, is their desire to keep as many people safe as possible.

5 Mistakes Companies make with their Standard Operating Procedures

Marie-Claire Ross Mon, Jul 16, 2012
5 Mistakes Companies make with their Standard Operating Procedures

As a safety content producer, I get the rare chance to look at countless standard operating procedures from a variety of large companies.

We use these documents to write clear, friendly scripts, in order to produce training videos that will engage, increase learner understanding and recall.  Nearly, 95% of the time, these standard operating procedures are really hard to read and understand.  And they're very often wrong.

5 Topics to include in your Workplace Safety Speech

Marie-Claire Ross Mon, Jun 25, 2012
5 Topics to include in your Workplace Safety Speech

Writing a safety speech can be a daunting task.  But rather than staring at a computer screen for inspiration, we've put together some helpful topic reminders to include in your speech to get maximum motivation and attention from your workforce.  Refer to these five must-have topics to help get you started.

10 Ways to Improve your Workplace Safety Communication

Marie-Claire Ross Mon, May 28, 2012
10 Ways to Improve your Workplace Safety Communication

Everything we do is communication.  And it is no wonder that research studies point to 70% of workplace mistakes being caused by poor communication.

How we start our message often determines the result.

According to Crystal Clear Communication, by Kris Cole, people quickly determine the meaning of our message and whether they will be receptive at the beginning.  We only have a short time to get our messages across:

  • 2 minutes when we are face to face
  • 30 seconds on the telephone
  • 10 - 15 seconds by voice mail.

So the more important the message, the bigger the need to plan what you are going to say.

8 Mine Safety Signs that Improve Mine Safety Communication

Marie-Claire Ross Wed, May 9, 2012
8 Mine Safety Signs that Improve Mine Safety Communication

Every mining company knows that a safe working environment for everyone, including sub-contractors, is the mine site’s responsibility – even if headquarters is in Australia, Canada, or the United States.

Getting your mine site up to scratch, to meet MSHA (Mine Safety and Health Administration) or Department of Mines and Petroleum inspections can be a lot of work.

But how do you easily and cost effectively improve mine safety communication?

Safety and budget-conscious mines like Barrick Gold Corporation, Rio Tinto and Newmont Mining Corporation create mining safety labels on-site with thermal transfer printers - satisfying Government regulations and keeping operations running smoothly.

Mine equipment operators, mill operators and maintenance personnel face dangers every day, but traditional safety sign ordering methods are costly and too slow to make an immediate impact on safety.

Many Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) managers still dig through thick catalogues in search of just the right sign with the correct dimensions, colors and Government compliant language. Requisitions slow the process further.

Ordering custom signs from sign shops is ridiculously expensive and slow - especially for delivery to remote locations. You’ll wait weeks and weeks - nearly forgetting you ordered the signs in the first place.

This process hinders getting signs up quickly or even at all especially when you have to buy 20 or 30 signs to get a price break even though you only needed a couple.

While, older labelling systems are expensive and unwieldy.

The good news? Thermal transfer printers may be ordered directly and delivered overnight to remote sites. Almost immediately, you can create all the signs and labels you need and they’ll perform anywhere in and around the mine. Thermal transfer printers use heat to literally “bake” on graphics and text to vinyl and other supplies which have been tested to perform under the most demanding conditions.

It's an easy and quick way to get your workplace safety communication happening instantly.

Mining Safety Tips & Guidelines

So while no two mines are alike, there’s a good chance you’ll need the following signs:
  • Traffic signs
  • Facility signs
  • No smoking/cell phone signs
  • Mine permit boundary signs
  • Identification tags for exploration
  • Pipe markers
  • Valve tags
  • Arc Flash NFPA70E signs
Signs also provide:
  • Radio call number information
  • Instructions about personal protection equipment (PPE)
  • Start-up procedures
  • Marking tools with colors, numbers and barcodes helps reduce theft and loss and color marking hard hats and equipment to differentiate shifts and departments helps keep people as well as tools in their sector. When short-term electrical outages occur, signs that are visible in the dark help people find their way. 
  • Signs and labels created using the thermal transfer process will last for years. With specialty supplies, they will adhere to virtually any surface.
Generic Signs Don’t Cut It

Signs and labels that are site specific to company policy make all the difference for new hires, visitors and subcontractors. Just like customised training materials, customised site signs improve site safety effectiveness.  Multilingual signs support a global workplace encompassing Australia, Africa, Europe, Asia, North and South America.

Call it the autonomy of the label printer. You control when and how frequently you create signs and labels. You see an accident waiting to happen, zip right back to your desk, print out a sign and post it on the spot. No waiting for approval. No paperwork to fill out. No injury or worse.

Guest author: Martin Carter, Global Mining Manager for Graphic Products, works directly with mine safety managers to customize and implement safety identification programs that meet compliance requirements while improving mine communications and security. Martin Carter, Graphic Products, mcarter@graphicproducts.com,1-800-788-5572 Ext. 5683 or visit www.DuraLabel.com.  Photo credit: Duralabel

8 Tips on Designing Attention-Getting Workplace Safety Signs

Marie-Claire Ross Tue, Apr 3, 2012
8 Tips on Designing Attention-Getting Workplace Safety Signs

When it comes to warnings about potential dangers or giving people an important instruction on site, you have to rely on labels and signs to communicate.  A sign's message can be communicated effectively with a picture that can be understood across all ages and languages (see Why Using Visuals in your Communication is so Important for more information on why visuals work so well).

8 Tips to Improve Safety Induction Training

Marie-Claire Ross Tue, Mar 27, 2012
8 Tips to Improve Safety Induction Training

According to the the research paper "Relative Effectiveness of Worker Safety and Health Training Methods" from the American Journal of Public Health in February 2006, engaging safety training is three times more effective than the least engaging methods in promoting knowledge and skill acquisition.  In addition, the most engaging methods of safety training are, on average, most effective in reducing negative outcomes such as accidents.

Six Secret Principles to an Effective Workplace Safety Campaign

Marie-Claire Ross Mon, Oct 24, 2011
Six Secret Principles to an Effective Workplace Safety Campaign

In the brilliant book, Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath, they discussed a 1999 research project by a team of Israeli researchers.  In this study, 200 award winning ads were classified into six templates.

They then classified 200 unsuccessful ads and found that only 2% could be classified into the six templates.

But wait there's more...

The researchers brought in three groups of novices and got them to create three ads for three different products.  The first group received information on the products and no ad design training.  The second group was trained for two hours by a creativity instructor, while the third group was trained for two hours on the six templates.

For all groups, the best best ads were selected by a creative director and tested with consumers.

How to Design your Next Workplace Safety Campaign

Marie-Claire Ross Fri, Oct 14, 2011
How to Design your Next Workplace Safety Campaign

Now that you have worked out your topic for your next routine workplace safety campaign, it's time to sit down and start writing.  Here are some tips that have been designed for routine workplace communication initiatives (and not for large safety communication programs that require a lot of change, for large scale initiatives go to "14 Tips to Launch a New Safety Initiative").

Why Using Visuals in your Communication is so Important

Marie-Claire Ross Mon, Aug 1, 2011
Why Using Visuals in your Communication is so Important

We've all heard the term "Death by PowerPoint" and the majority of us have been scarred by poor presentations and classroom learning techniques, at some point in our life.

How to Engage Staff with your Core Values

Marie-Claire Ross Tue, Mar 15, 2011
How to Engage Staff with your Core Values

In the seminal book Built to Last, by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, they discovered that what made great companies better than good companies was that great companies had a core ideology.  This is when a company is clear on "This is who we are, this is what we stand for, this is what we're all about".

Real Cost of Workplace Injuries: A Case for Boosting Workplace Safety

Marie-Claire Ross Tue, Mar 15, 2011
Real Cost of Workplace Injuries: A Case for Boosting Workplace Safety

Since the early 1990's, most companies have got their act together and decreased their workplace injuries (see chart).  After all, it's a no-brainer that workplace safety accidents cost businesses lots of money each year.  And from a human perspective, it's always a good idea to look after people.

How to write the CEO Safety Speech

Marie-Claire Ross Thu, Feb 17, 2011
How to write the CEO Safety Speech

How the safety speech is written depends upon it's form of delivery (eg: written speech for the annual report, face to face presentation to staff or video presentation) and the audience. Ideally, the speech is tailored as much as possible to the particular group of workers as this will get more traction.

7 Tips to Improve Employee Induction Training Materials

Marie-Claire Ross Tue, Jul 20, 2010
7 Tips to Improve Employee Induction Training Materials

1. Use more Visuals - 83% of human learning occurs visually.  Use lots of photos, videos, diagrams and colour to present training information.  Avoid relying heavily on text based training.  After all, we only recall 10% of what we read compared to 50% for what we both see and hear.

Five Company Induction Trends that can Put You out of Business

Marie-Claire Ross Mon, Apr 12, 2010
Five Company Induction Trends that can Put You out of Business

Getting new starters up to speed as quickly possible should be the goal of every company.  Yet, sadly, most companies tend to induct new starters with boring reading materials and little training support.

The Importance of "Why" in Workplace Training

Marie-Claire Ross Wed, Feb 3, 2010
The Importance of

When we were all young children, we all used to bug our parents with lots of  "Why?" questions.  And while this can test even the calmest of parents, the truth is children are curious about the world around them and want to understand why things happen.  It helps them learn and communicate.