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3 Steps to Improve Communication in Occupational Health and Safety

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on February 5, 2020 at 10:17 AM

Communication is one of the most vital skills of an occupational safety professional. That’s because your job isn’t about hard hats or engineering controls – at their core, all safety jobs are about people, and you have to communicate with your workforce to understand what they need and keep them safe.

More than that, a good EHS communicator is the best resource for safety programs because they’re an open door. Employees come to them because they know that they will be heard and respected.

Looking to improve your communication in workplace safety? Here are three essential tips for every EHS professional to keep in their back pocket.

Know How to Communicate With Different Communicators

In a single workplace, you can encounter dozens of workers with wildly diverse personalities. And yet, you have to communicate with all of them effectively. The first step is knowing how to communicate effectively, and the best first step is to know how to recognize and communicate with various types of communicators.

Broadly speaking, there are four basic communication patterns:

  1. Dominant - Dominant communicators believe they’re never wrong. They like to get their opinions out there right away and tend to bulldoze over others in a conversation. This means they can come across as aggressive.

  2. Passive - Passive communicators, on the other hand, are indirect and meek. Their central belief is that you shouldn’t express your true feelings, which is rooted in the notion that other people are right and you are wrong (despite evidence otherwise). They back down when challenged and accept instruction even against their own self-interest.

  3. Passive-aggressive - Passive-aggressive communicators back down too, but this is an appearance of agreement – in actuality, they’ll go behind your back to voice their discontent. They take subtle digs, hold grudges, and communicate via sarcasm and implication.

  4. Empathetic - Empathetic communicators value their contributions equally to others. Like the dominant communicator, they communicate directly, but like the passive communicator, they seek compromise via open communication.

Each communication style values different things and requires different treatment to thrive. Passive communicators must be encouraged to share their opinion, while dominant communicators value clear and direct communication but require a firm, diplomatic hand.

Be a Good Listener

To that end, one of the best things you can do as an EHS communicator is to listen more than you talk – and to be a good listener.

Great listeners don’t just soak up information like a sponge. They actively engage even when they’re silent. Their body language shows active attention and they consider the emotions of the speaker before them as well as their actual words. This way, when they do speak, they can respond directly and completely.

If you’re not sure where to start, the best thing to do is to listen more often than you talk. When you’re talking, you’re thinking about what you want to say next, which means you miss vital cues from the other speaker. Instead, invite the other side to talk more often, or simply listen. You’ll be amazed at how much you hear when you’re quiet enough to pay attention.

Be Clear and Concise

Last but not least, all communication styles benefit from being clear and concise.

Communication (and miscommunication) are all about signals. The more possible interpretations, the stronger the chance of a misunderstanding. Some communicators interpret this lack of clarity as deliberate evasiveness, others interpret it as you not paying attention or being unwilling to share information.

Regardless, everyone benefits from knowing where they stand. When you communicate, regardless of who you’re communicating with, make your communication clear and to-the-point, with expectations laid out as clearly as a road map.

Communication in Workplace Safety Is Central to a Successful Safety Culture

If you want a successful workplace safety culture, communication is the lynchpin that holds the whole culture together. Good cultures are diverse, but they’re all built on clear and open communication.

If you and your team are looking to bolster your communication skills, the best place to start is great training. That’s where we come in. Our training software makes it easy to check skills, share resources, and track progress toward the goal. Want to see it in action? Get in touch today to learn more.

Topics: Workplace Health and Safety, Training Management, Safety Management, Safety Culture, Human Resources, Professional Development

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