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Enacting a business culture in which safety is a priority requires talking about safety with employees. But all too often when it comes to conversations about safety issues, both management and workers fall back into a parent/child roles: One side preaches and the other feels as if they are being blamed.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Organizations can successfully create workplace cultures that value safety by breaking the molds that define safety conversations. This can be achieved by promoting open, collaborative discussions that genuinely engage both sides.
Persuasive, Not Punitive
Changing attitudes about safety often requires management to change their approach toward workers. Disciplinary structures that involve writeups, work histories, and punitive action in response to infractions of workplace rules have their place, but so do open, two-way conversations about safety that don’t always occur only after somebody does something wrong.
Businesses that take a longer-term approach by using persuasive dialogues about workplace safety can often avoid many progressive discipline actions later because infractions don’t occur as frequently.
Think Before You Speak
An effective way to engage workers in conversations about safety is to think about what you are going to say before you say it. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you react if somebody were to say to you exactly what you plan to say to them?
Consider the motivations of the other person and massage your message to genuinely engage them in a dialogue, rather than force them into a defensive position. You are likely to meet less resistance that way.
Try to speak their language, especially when asking a worker to change the way they are used to doing things. Explain rather than order. Ask what they think then genuinely listen to their suggestions.
Practice Makes Perfect
Finally, if you are going to talk the talk, you also need to walk the walk. Lead by example. Don’t tell your workers to do one thing and then do the opposite thing yourself. Your team members will be more likely to listen to you if they see that you consistently follow the safety actions you want them to follow.
The opposite is also true. If you say one thing then do the opposite yourself, your team won’t believe you when you say you value safety.
Talking to people from a position of collaboration doesn’t always come easily to managers and supervisors. But it can be a more effective way to create a culture of safety in the workplace that someday could end up saving lives, preventing injuries, and protecting against property damage.
Like anything else, however, the more you do it the easier it gets.