WABT CASE STUDY - CLEARING CLUTTER
Programme Planning for Clear Communication
Imagine a company involved in the oil and gas industry. It’s focused on what it does, and there’s strong, universal understanding of what they’re trying to achieve. Corporate strategy is clear and precise, and sets out exactly how the company aims to achieve its goals.
HSE communications are treated separately to other corporate messaging. They’re subject to a lot of ‘noise’ and sometimes lost among other messaging being issued at the same time. There can be conflict and confusion —a message about safety awareness, for example, might be followed by a message about increasing productivity.
There’s no planning involved. HSE communications are reactive — they might be issued in response to weather conditions, for example, or after an incident has already occurred. Finally, responsibility for issuing these comms is on local managers. They’re under pressure to push for higher performance and productivity, so they prioritise those goals over safety messaging.
As a result, safety awareness levels are generally poor. Good behavioural practices are sacrificed to improve productivity. Accident levels and lost time injury rate frequencies (LTIFRs) are rising, which in turn impacts company performance.
The client needs to give HSE messaging the same priority as other company communications. It needs to smooth out the confusing and conflicting messages and make sure all communications are issued at appropriate times and by appropriate people. Everyone in the company should be as clear about HSE behaviours and practice as they are about company goals
We need to replace ad-hoc, reactive HSE messaging with a planned programme of consistent, meaningful communcations that will engage with all company audiences and actively help to change behaviours. We begin by:
- Identifying safety issues/practices that apply to everyone in the company
- Identifying specific issues and practices that apply only to particular sections, like people who work at height or with volatile materials
- Compiling a list of ‘lighter’, more general, but still relevant messaging that can be used to keep the safety conversation going
- Considering times or occasions for HSE messaging — eg winter weather warnings, or new equipment installations
- Planning communication routes to ensure HSE messages are seen by and acted on by everyone at the same time
- Liaising with other departments, eg HR and corporate communications, to eliminate conflict and confusion
- Creating a universal safety language and vocabulary, so everyone knows exactly what is being said
- Planning a communications hierarchy
- Creating a communications toolkit that shows how and when to use comms materials and messaging
A planned programme of HSE communications, which:
- Ensures safety education and awareness is an ongoing and integral part of internal communications
- Prevents overlap or confusion with other internal comms
- Creates and maintains clear communication channels, so everyone gets the right messages at the right time
- Means everyone is speaking the same HSE language
- Supports continually-improving levels of awareness and appropriate behaviour
THE LAST WORD
From similar exercises with real life clients, we know programme planning creates better communication. It reduces clutter and confusion. It addresses key points at the right times, and creates a culture where safety becomes part of everyday conversation. Clients adopting this approach have seen increased safety reporting, which helps to improve understanding, awareness and practice. Over the long term, they’ve reported positive behavioural change that supports continually-improving safety awareness and performance, as well as reduced accident rates. And that’s good for everyone in the business, as well as the bottom line.