Happy World Day for Safety and Health at Work, everyone! (It was April 28th by the way but you definitely knew that).

Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? Not what you might call snappy. Which is odd, because it makes me feel distinctly snappy.

Not because of the message. I’m an internal communications provider specialising in health and safety (and HR) issues. I also hold health and safety qualifications, because I believe in understanding my work. So I’m bang alongside the idea of ‘safety and health at work’, however clumsily it’s phrased.

Of course we need to be safety aware. And of course initiatives designed to raise that awareness are a good idea. Where I get irritated is with the idea that this awareness can be encapsulated in a single day.I wonder how many corporate leadership teams are looking at the all-users email sent today and smugly feeling like they’ve taken ownership of HSE in the workplace.I wonder how many bosses are going ‘Safety and Health at Work Day? Is it? We should probably do something about that, shouldn’t we?’

I wonder how many HSE teams are sitting with their heads in their hands because they raised this ‘celebration’ ages ago and had it essentially 'memed' this morning.

By all means, let’s have an international day of recognition and awareness. But let’s make it part of a wider HSE strategy. Let’s make it a starting point for committed, ongoing, planned and monitored activity. Because awareness is only meaningful if we back it up with actions, information, responsibility and accountability.

800,000 people worldwide lost their lives due to workplace incidents and accidents last year. How many of those deaths might have been prevented through a properly realised and implemented health and safety strategy? How many lives could have been saved if health and safety awareness existed year-round, rather than annually?

Awareness is a huge part of every communications campaign we undertake. No campaign, however clever, could succeed without it. That’s why our approach always starts with consultation - not only with the corporate team, but with the HSE teams and the people on the floor.

Once we understand the company’s starting point, we can create strategy and communications that takes everyone towards a higher level of safety awareness — and keeps them there. So today I’m going to suggest that you do the same.

Use this day to raise your own awareness. Learn how to do safety better. Understand where your business sits right now, and how the people in it view HSE. Then take real, measurable, meaningful steps to improve it and engage with it.

By this time next year you could be looking at a significant improvement not only in HSE statistics, but in HSE culture. And that’s something you can really celebrate.

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