Don't talk to your staff just because you have to...

Don't do it just because you have to, don't rely on the law to tell you how to do it, and make sure you spend time listening, as well as talking. We're talking about health and safety communications with staff, inspired by an recent article we read. 

The August issue of Business Plus magazine printed a great article by Paul Jarvie of the EMA, which focused specifically on employee-employee health and safety communications. He says that while health and safety legislation has improved many things, there is still some confusion about how best to communicate with, and involve staff. 

He says a Health and Safety Representative system (where reps are either go-betweens, or go-to people for employers and employees) can work well. But, "let's be honest here", he says, "creating a Health and Safety Representative System because you are required to by law, or because you need an ACC audit, is never the best reason to do it. Staff know that, you know that, and the results prove it." He says that the key focus should be engagement - rather than one-directional messaging or relying on legislation. 

"International studies repeatedly indicate that only 26-35% of staff are actively engaged with managers and their workplaces; 15-23% are actively disengaged and the remaining 50 per cent are not engaged." We know that having employees who are engaged directly correlates to being good for business so that's where the focus should be. 

And some people may need to relearn how to listen, he says. Hidden agendas can rule the health and safety function, and misinformation be passed around. 

We agree - doing it because you have to will get you some of the way there. Looking to legislation to prescribe formal communication methods, is part of the job. But the best approach will always be to spend time listening to employee opinions, needs, ideas, and feedback - not because you have to, but because it's beneficial for everybody. 

You can check out Business Plus magazine here, and have a read of a recent issue here