Safety professionals need the human touch

Safety professionals
If you’re promoting a safe and healthy work environment, you have to be the friendliest people in the workplace, says David Cant.

First, let’s clarify that being friendly doesn’t mean you have to be friends with employees. Safety professionals play a critical role in promoting a safe and healthy work environment for all employees.

One important aspect of the job is building trust and positive relationships with workers so communicating safety information and fostering a culture of safety can be managed effectively. 

Being friendly and approachable can help break down barriers and create a more open, psychologically safe and inclusive environment where employees feel comfortable sharing concerns or asking questions. 

Additionally, workers are more likely to report, without fear of retaliation, safety hazards or issues to a safety professional who is friendly and approachable. Furthermore, they can help create a positive attitude and culture towards safety in the workplace, making everyone willing to work together to keep themselves and others safe.

There are several ways that safety professionals can be the friendliest in the workplace and promote a positive culture of safety:

Be approachable

This can be achieved by maintaining an open-door policy, being a good listener, making yourself available to answer questions and seeking out employee feedback.

Communicate effectively

Clear and concise communication is key in any workplace, but it is particularly important for safety professionals. They should communicate safety information in a way that is easy to understand and listen attentively to the employees. 

Use simple language and avoid jargon or technical terms. Speaking in simple language is like putting on a pair of comfortable shoes: it allows easy movement and understanding. Whereas using jargon and technical terms is like walking on stilts – it may impress some people but it’s hard to stay up and it can be off-putting for others.

Another useful communication technique is being curious and asking open questions. Instead of saying “Does that make sense to you”, ask “What didn’t make sense to you?” This approach encourages dialogue.

Encourage participation

Safety professionals should involve employees actively in developing and implementing safety policies and procedures. This can help promote a sense of ownership. 

Trust and respect

Being friendly demonstrates empathy and understanding. This can help build trust, respect and motivation among team members. 

Check in

Regularly check in with your colleagues to see how they are doing both personally and professionally. For example, ask “What did you get up to the weekend?”, “How did the family party go?” and “What can I do to help make your job easier?”

Lead by example

Safety professionals should practise what they preach and set an excellent example regarding safety behaviour. This shows that they take safety seriously and can help encourage other employees to do the same.

Show recognition and appreciation

Acknowledge employees when they do something right. Safety professionals should recognise and reward good safety performance because this can help boost morale and encourage employees to continue to work safely.

Use a sense of humour

A sense of humour can help build rapport and ease tension in the workplace. This  makes it a more inviting place for employees.

It is important to note that being friendly doesn’t mean that safety professionals have to compromise on ethics, professional standards and decision-making, but it helps them to lead and manage a team effectively. 

All these actions can help build positive relationships with employees and colleagues, promoting a safety culture and, ultimately, helping ensure a safe and healthy work environment for all. Ask yourself: how friendly are you in the workplace? 

David Cant is director of Veritas Consulting

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