Connecting Workers with Safety—From a Safe Distance

Finding new ways to communicate about safety and stay safe in an uncertain time.

We are all adjusting to the “new normal.” The COVID-19 situation is still changing. It is an uneasy background to businesses reopening after the shutdown and requires essential services, like transport, to work within distancing regulations and strict hygiene procedures.

But one thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of workplace safety. The challenge is to engage workers and provide safety information when physical distancing rules out face-to-face meetings.

We wanted to learn more about communicating safety under COVID-19 restrictions. We contacted three safety advisors at SafetyDriven — Shay Ryan, Darshan Gill, and Brad Zall. They agree that there are advantages to methods such as signage, handouts, conference calls, emails, texts, and online meetings.

“Different tools appeal to different audiences. Find out what catches the attention of your workers, making sure to keep the message brief and on-point,” says Ryan.

“While there is no one perfect solution, a combination of methods is likely what will be the best way to communicate,” Gill adds. “For industries such as trucking where workers are widespread, emails/newsletters or pre-recorded video messages are effective tools.” He echoes Ryan’s point about making communication focused and brief. “Keep the message clear and concise. There is so much information available these days that workers may have a hard time sorting through it all. By consistently delivering a clear and concise message, safety managers provide a trustworthy and consistent source of reliable information for workers to follow.”

Many businesses are replacing in-person meetings with online meetings or video conferencing.

“Zoom has become a very useful tool for meetings,” says Zall. He suggests becoming familiar with your video conferencing tools before a meeting. “And don’t forget to use the mute button when not speaking to limit noise interference,” he adds. Your colleagues probably won’t hold it against you if they can hear a child or pet, but it is distracting.

It is still important to have an agenda for your virtual meeting.

“Keep to the agenda; don’t drag out the meeting. Many find these kinds of meetings stressful and uncomfortable,” Ryan points out. “If an issue is brought up during the meeting that isn’t on the agenda and doesn’t need immediate attention, use a ‘parking lot’ to make note of issues for the next meeting and/or hold a special meeting for just that issue.”

“While the social aspect of being able to see your coworkers can certainly be a good thing, it is important to be aware of overdoing Zoom meetings,” Gill cautions. “As with in-person meetings, some online meetings can and should be replaced by emails. Not every meeting needs to be a Zoom meeting.” He also suggests that organizers send follow-up emails to add value to video meetings. “Very few attendees in Zoom meetings take notes and if the information is relevant and important, having it available after the meeting for reference can be an effective tool.” Soliciting feedback is still key.

“Whether through video meetings or emails/memos, provide workers with an opportunity to communicate their concerns and ask questions they may have about items related to the discussion,” says Gill.

Zall suggests that safety managers ask workers to confirm that they received the communication. Review the information with the worker to be sure there is no misunderstanding.

“Ask questions about the feedback they give you, take notes, and copy them in on all documentation based on their specific feedback,” says Ryan. “Keep going back to them to make sure any suggestions/issues/solutions they have provided remains from their perspective. If they have provided a solution for a safety issue, make sure to also get their feedback after the solution has been put in place, ensuring a control measure actually works for those who face that hazard.”

Finally, with all the distractions right now, how can safety managers ensure that safety remains everyone’s top priority?

Maintaining a presence with regular communication is vital, Zall says. “As a safety manager, you may not be meeting face-to-face with employees, but it’s important for workers to know you are still available.”

Ryan agrees: “Be present and available. Take the time to talk to people on both a professional and personal level, demonstrating that safety isn’t just legislated policies and procedures. Be mindful that everyone’s mind is elsewhere and not everyone will be convinced they can be at work without fear.”

Gill says safety managers can address fear by demonstrating they take the pandemic seriously and are taking measures to keep everyone safe. “When this is done effectively and workers are able to see that their health is being looked after, they are able to spend more time focusing on the safety/hazards of their actual job.”

For COVID-19 resources for trucking and moving and storage, visit SafetyDriven’s COVID-19 page.