7 ways to make your safety information more engaging for staff.
A few years ago I started up an adventure tourism company. Before we could operate I had to create a safety management plan (for an audit). I spent many days crafting a wonderful plan. Now I needed to get this information into a format that our staff would love to use.
It’s easy for the plan to sit in a set of folders on the office wall or on your computer. If you ask staff to read it, then expect a glazed over look. So, how do you make sure this information is in the hands of your staff when the rubber meets the road?
You need to have staff buy into implementing safety in your organisation. Here are 7 ways to get you started on engaging your staff with safety management plans:
1. Make safety information small and portable
How are your staff going to use the safety information?
If your staff need to have information on their person or in the top pocket of their packs, then A6 size (105mm x 148mm) is very useful and practical. If they are going to use it in their vehicles or at their office desks, then A5 (148mm x 210mm) is often the right size. If you go larger, to A4, expect this will get filed along with the rest of the reference material.
There may be situations where you can’t make information smaller (e.g. a diagram). There are options like folding a page to get the information into a smaller size.
- Use A5 or A6 to create useful and portable information.
- Use alternate options for larger information.
2. Make it robust
Where are your staff going to use the safety information?
If you are in the field in all weathers, depending on your location in the world, then you need some kind of waterproof covering. This includes laminating, plastic sleeves or printing onto waterproof paper. The most compact method is printing onto waterproof paper as it only has the thickness of one page. For less harsh environments often just a laminated card front cover is needed. There are different types and weights of paper available that can improve durability.
Use a binding method that’s going to last. The plastic comb binding often found in the work office comes apart pretty easily in the field. Take your documents to the local print shop for wire or even better plastic spiral binding.
- Use a waterproof covering.
- Use a binding method that will last.
3. Only put in essential information
What do your staff really need to know on a day-to-day basis?
There is a lot of information in a safety management plan (that needs to be there) but is often not useful in a daily work context for staff. Identify essential and useful information to include that will keep your staff engaged and coming back.
This could include standard operating procedures, processes, policies, methods, briefings, checklists, guidelines, site specific plans, techniques, emergency response, risk management and safe work instructions.
- Most of the content should be useful information that is used frequently.
4. Make the words simple and clear
How will the document communicate your word messages?
A huge amount of effort goes into making websites and books readable. The meaning of each sentence is crafted so it is obvious. This is really important for safety information.
- Write and think like a marketer. Make sure that your message is simple and the meaning is clear.
- To increase readability, use short sentences and no words of more than two syllables.
- Read your work out loud to make sure it makes sense.
- Have someone proof-read the document for you.
5. Focus on visual elements
How will the document visually communicate your messages?
Design your document so it looks good. There is a tendency, especially with a smaller sized document, to have small margins and fonts in order to jam everything onto a page. To look professional, keep a simple, clean and consistent layout. Use design principles when setting up your page.
Visually representing what you mean can have major benefits for staff engagement and communication across language barriers.
- Set up sufficient margins and allow for binding and header/footers.
- Use a suitable font size, colour and spacing. Then use paragraph styles to keep the layout consistent e.g. header, body, bullet.
- Use simple fonts that are easy to read.
- Highlight important information using colours or shading.
- Design your page with the rule of thirds.
- White space looks good. Don’t crowd the page.
- Create visual language using icons.
- Use clean, simple diagrams and infographics to explain a complex task.
- Add your branding on each page.
6. Find information quickly
How are you going to make sure information can be found quickly?
Consider how you navigate around the printed document to easily find the information you need.
- Use a table of contents with numbered pages.
- Colour code the pages for the different sections. This could be just the header/footer colours or the whole page could be a different colour.
- Using the front and back as two different sections e.g. Procedures in the front and emergencies in the back.
- Tab the pages for quick reference.
7. Cloud access and digital devices
How are you going to make your document available in the cloud?
As well as a paper-based version you can use the cloud to keep safety information up to date and available to your staff. There are a number of excellent providers of cloud storage including Google Drive, Box and Dropbox. All these services provide a few gigabytes of free storage to get you started. You can upload, edit and collaborate with ease using the most popular file types such as Microsoft Word.
With bigger screen sizes, water/shockproof cases combined with improving cell coverage, having all your safety information on your phone is a reality. For areas of no service, you can download the information for offline use. Take into account that everyone needs a suitable phone with a case, and battery life can be limited.
- Get your safety information into the cloud.
- Make the safety information accessible on digital devices.
What I ended up doing for the adventure tourism company was having 3 different documents for staff.
- Staff Manual – A5 size – Outlines the universal company policies and procedures.
- Operational and Emergency Procedures – A6 size – Specific operating and emergency procedures for the field.
- Technical Manual – A5 size – Training reference for technical skills and competencies.
Getting your essential business safety information in a form that’s engaging and staff friendly does take time and effort initially. Once you have it in place it assists with continual improvement and staff training. If you are being audited, it helps to answers questions about procedures, field communication, training, incidents and emergencies.
By following these 7 ideas you will be well on your way to creating a system that really works and your staff love to use. Can you afford not to?
By Grant Prattley, Over The Edge Rescue, 2016
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