OHS Canada Magazine

Navigating the new world of safety communications

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December 3, 2019
By Alan Quilley

Compliance & Enforcement Health & Safety Young Workers change Digital social media

Emerging technology is affecting traditional approaches to safety management

Today’s social-networking options seem endless. (Julien Eichinger/Adobe Stock)

I’m not sure how you are dealing with the exciting world of constantly changing social networking — blogs, streaming, ezines, tweets, apps, eBooks, Snapchat and podcasts. I’m personally embracing as many possibilities as I can to enhance my communication with my clients and friends.

It’s a confusing time when trying to learn multiple approaches to communication that simply weren’t there a few years ago.

As I explore these many emerging and newly preferred technologies, I have to wonder just how our safety management approaches are being impacted now and will be impacted in our near-future. There are certainly more questions than answers.

• What will these new processes and abilities to communicate with our workers bring to efficiency and effectiveness?

• What will be the impact of employers tweeting safety messages to their employees and contractors? Will it be a positive addition to our arsenal of communication approaches we’ve historically used?


• How useful will interactive blogs be to improving communication with our workers about critical safety issues? Will the old adage “build it and they will come” ring true?

These are very real questions with serious consequences in the world of safety management diligence. How will judges view new versus traditional communication methods when OHS issues make it to our courts?

Multigenerational audience

In a multiple-generational workforce of several “technologically competent” levels of proficiency, how will we make our communication accessible, compelling, effective and efficient? Will the 65 year old and the 18 year old both receive our messages in the same way?

These questions are more than philosophical in nature; they need to be answered and quickly.

At this moment, we are holding safety meetings with multiple generations. Are we asking them what the best ways to communicate with them are? If not, we are missing a golden opportunity.

The best way to communicate with anyone is to ask them. I have long suggested to everyone who will listen that the best meetings to hold are those that the participants design themselves. In my opinion, to do it any other way will guarantee your meetings will fall short of your desired result and outcome expectations.

Speed of change

It’s been said that change is not new — it’s the rate of change that seems to be ever increasing. YouTube tells us that there are approximately 300 hours of videos loaded by users every minute. How in the world are we to keep up with the latest information?

And that’s not the only challenge. How are we to sort through all of that data and find the valid and important information? How do we tell myth from reality?

People in the business world are expected to stay on the edge of current thinking and knowledge. How in the world can we do that without exposing ourselves to the conversations of today?

What is current is not only interesting, but vital to our development. What has changed recently is the speed of change. Whatever data you just read or watched has probably changed by the time you’re finished taking in the material.

There is of course a silver lining to every dark cloud.

As wrong as the internet can be, it can also provide amazing factual detail which, up until very recently, was frustrating to find and often not available at all. Pre-internet, I spent most of my lunch hours in public libraries looking for books that were usually on loan to someone else. Frustrating to the max.

On the totally positive side of what is new, I have found great support in selecting some very fine safety professionals around the world to link to. I highly recommend that we all link to others in other cultures and work environments to test your thinking. If indeed you have the right answer to your challenges, these should be supported by what others think is possible and plausible. If not, perhaps you need to reflect more on your approach and decisions.

At this stage in our communication adventures, we have more questions than answers. Don’t become overwhelmed. Decide how you are going to face these ever-changing challenges and embrace the technology.

The learning curve will always be steep but it is a challenge that is not optional. It’s essential!

Alan Quilley is the president of Safety Results in Sherwood Park, Alta.

This column was published in the Nov/Dec 2019 issue of OHS Canada.


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