Life-saving communications are a game-changer in health & safety 

Saturday, 2 November 2019 / Vaughan Reed

“Destructive and devastating” is how Skycity executives referred to the fire at Skycity Convention Centre in Auckland.

An investigation into this crisis will follow soon after the final flame is extinguished, however whatever the true cause, the speculation of a health and safety breach by people working on the construction site has reminded everyone involved in any kind of business activities that involve risk, how easily a massive crisis can take place.

Skycity Convention Centre Fire - Photo by Vaughan Scott IMAGES

If working in the health and safety space sometimes feel like ‘ticking boxes’ to inform employees about things that might put them in danger, it’s time to take a long hard look at what your organisation is doing to protect employees and its assets, especially if you are a health and safety manager or have responsibilities in this area.

The big issue organisations are facing is around retention of health and safety information and getting it through to front line staff. Most organisations are communicating health and safety messages during employee inductions and staff training programs and it’s difficult to change a lifetime of habits through a one-off program.

To ingrain methods and messages they need to be reinforced continuously, in a way where workers feel comfortable and can relate. The current methods of using emails, posters and noticeboards, are simply not getting through, nor are they being retained by employees.

As society has evolved, so has our communication and this has a direct bearing on how you need to communicate in your workplace. Under the influence of social media and other online platforms, we now have an appetite for highly visual, snackable and dynamic communications.

We retain 80% of what we see and process visuals 60,000 times faster than text! The case for ‘more visual’ communications is even stronger when you consider 65% of the population are visual learners and our attention span is waning. Millennials have an attention span of only 12 seconds, Generation Z only 8 seconds – realistically you can’t absorb much text during that time.

If you want your business to live and breathe a health and safety culture, your messaging needs to be reinforced daily, from top management down to people on the ground and at the coal face, where it really counts. It is not acceptable to rely on one method of dissemination, such as middle management passing on information in an inconsistent and hap-hazard manner – it needs to be more considered, well-planned and co-ordinated. If you are a person responsible for health and safety in your organisation, hopefully you can see that the quality of your communications can literally mean the difference between life or death or avoiding the catastrophic events, which unfolded at Skycity Convention Centre.

After all, health and safety is not something you want people to learn through mistakes and experience. No organisation wants the spotlight on them for the wrong reasons and certainly you don’t want to be one of the health and safety people having to account for the part you played in ensuring employees were adequately briefed and protected.

Article By Vaughan Reed [LinkedIn]
Vaughan is the Managing Director @ Making it easy for organisations to communicate business critical information in a way that will inspire today’s workforce.