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Have you looked at your communication channels lately?

Marketing and safety aren't discussed in the same breath very often. Changes in electronic communication have sent marketers scurrying to manage the multiple ways to reach customers and prospects who want to get the information they need, when they need it, from wherever they happen to be. As preferences and methods have evolved in marketing, so too have they changed in the workforce and this has implications for safety management.

According to an article, "Understand their motivations. Workers' communication preferences are changing" in the National Safety Council's Safety + Health, workers are more likely to listen to and comply with messages they feel are geared toward them. The message needs to be concise and relevant to the audience. If electronic, the message should not exceed one page and meetings should not be longer than needed and focused on the information employees feel they need to know.

Mary Eriksen, human resources and safety manager for Omaha, NE-based Sapp Bros. Inc., which manages truck travel centers, restaurants, service centers, warehouses and wholesale fuel distribution, says she tries to understand employees motivations and concerns and how much information she provides and how long she keeps workers at meetings are issues of respect. When choosing what information to share with workers and how to share it, some factors to consider are years of experience, age, the personality of the individual or group, and the history of prior injuries.

E. Scott Geller, alumni distinguished professor in the Center for Applied Behavior Systems at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg notes that the methods and language of traditional safety communication can come across as a turn-off to today's average worker, who expects more autonomy and respect. This means employers need to ask workers more open-ended questions, show they sincerely care about workers' safety and demonstrate they are truly listening.

This not only has implications for safety training and messaging but also for incident investigation. The process of being interviewed following an incident can sometimes feel like an exercise in placing blame, which will quickly turn off today's employees. Moreover, when communicating the results of the investigation, it is important to focus succinctly on the big picture about the root causes and how to address them. This places attention where it belongs-on how to prevent recurrence of this and similar incidents.