The Communicator

A failure to communicate effectively is planning to fail. What this means is that the company and its management are the primary conveyors of OSH messages, whether it be a manager, supervisor, or safety and health professional. To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, how you act speaks so loudly, no one can hear what you say. If the company representative fails to wear the required personal protective equipment in designated areas, then his/her actions don't match the message the company wants to send. This is a communication failure, plain and simple.

This means that the failure to visibly support occupational safety and health by their actions, follow the company's safety and health rules, or wear the required personal protective equipment sends a stronger nonverbal message than words ever can and will undermine the safety and health at the work site. The message communicator, whether he/ she likes it or not, must be a role model for OSH messaging. Effective communication goes well beyond the written and verbal forms of communication. Communicators must walk the walk before they can credibly talk the talk.

This does not suggest that the company should not use written communications or vocally espouse support for safety and health at the workplace. However, this is all for naught when the safety and health rules and policies are sidestepped when it is inconvenient to follow them. When this occurs, it is perceived that the company is placing production above safety and health in the workplace.

Is this what is meant to be communicated? If the company looks the other way when supervisors do not follow the OSH policies and procedures, the company's actions are more effective than anything that has been said or written regarding commitment to safety and health.

Before attempting to set up communications that will work in the company's unique situation, the company needs to make sure that they have a good understanding of the culture that exists, and this is especially true of the safety and health culture. The safety and health culture needs to be assessed to make sure that the communications will be received in a manner that will positively influence the safety and health effort.

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