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Safety at a glance: how good visual communication can help you build a strong site safety culture
By Kevin Rowe 4 months ago No comments
Fostering a strong commitment to workplace safety has always been a top priority for responsible businesses, but in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, this has never been more important.
As the UK’s national lockdown eases, businesses across the country are facing a reality in which their ability to trade depends on their efforts to uphold the very highest standards of safety and hygiene within their working spaces. As such, site managers will be looking for the most effective means of communicating vital safety information to their staff - and that means a renewed investment in visual aids such as safety signs and site information boards.
In this guest post, Joe Turner, service delivery manager at Workplace Safety Solutions, examines some of the key reasons why visual communication aids can play such an essential role in helping your site foster a strong safety culture in this coronavirus-impacted business landscape - and beyond.
How COVID-19 has increased demand for effective safety solutions
Workplace Safety Solutions is a health and safety consultancy based in Basildon, Essex, and we’ve been operating since 2005, becoming a limited company in 2011. We provide a wide range of workplace safety consultancy services for businesses spanning a broad range of sectors, from construction to education, and engineering to funeral homes.
Working with a client base of more than 80 companies, with up to 50 being live at any one time, we’ve been using video conferencing tools such as Zoom and Skype to carry on consulting with businesses on their ongoing safety responsibilities throughout the lockdown. This has included assisting businesses with COVID-secure risk assessments, often working with SafetyBuyer to make sure our clients have all the measures they need in place to reopen safely.
In doing so, we’ve seen a major shift in attitudes towards health and safety among many of the companies we work with. Of course, most are looking specifically for COVID-related assistance - in particular, regarding the specifics of the two-metre/one-metre-plus social distancing guidance - but we’re also seeing that organisations are starting to take health and safety more seriously in general and working to improve their standards, which is a major positive to be taken across all industries.
The impact of good visual communication
Due to the nature of the control measures surrounding COVID-19, businesses and their workers are being asked to change daily practices and habits that have been in place for years. The social distancing rules are a case in point - in order to stay safe and compliant, staff must now work two metres apart from each other, or when this is not possible, a one-metre gap should be employed alongside other safety measures, such as personal protective equipment.
Visual aids are vital in helping everyone on site learn and stick to these new rules. Studies have shown that the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, and 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual - as such, it can be really helpful to reinforce your new COVID safety measures with signs and visual reminders, so that everyone can keep the messages in mind at all times.
Of course, there are right and wrong ways to go about using safety signage, and we’d liken this to adjusting the volume dial on a radio. If the volume is too low and you don’t use enough signage or visual reminders the message won’t be seen, but if the volume is too high and you put up too many signs, the message can be confused or get lost in the noise.
What we’d recommend is a combination of in-depth site information boards, where staff and visitors can go to remind themselves of the rules in detail, backed up by safety signs dotted around the premises. This will serve as a constant visual reminder to staff of what is required to assist in keeping them, their colleagues and families safe during the pandemic.
It’s also a good idea to invest in some custom signage for your site, rather than relying solely on generic safety notices. Custom signs let your workers and site visitors know that the advice they are seeing is tailored specifically for them, which means they will take it more seriously; also, putting your own recognisable company branding on these signs will help to increase your own credibility as a caring employer that is committed to health and safety. A real win-win proposition!
The importance of listening, learning and teaching
If your company is really serious about getting their act together on health and safety in response to COVID-19, then you’ll need to remember that real improvement is about more than using the right signs, products and messages. Lasting change comes from better attitudes, and an acceptance of the need to learn, grow and improve over time.
Here are a few of our tips on how to ensure your company is able to create a true “safety first” culture that everyone within the organisation can buy into, and that all members of staff feel truly protected by:
- Encourage change from the very top - the best-run and most professional companies have always embraced the need for senior management to take the lead on health and safety. For businesses that have always had that mindset, getting the company COVID-secure will be much easier, as the relevant processes and procedures will already be in place to proactively assess risks, identify the right safety solutions and invest what it takes to bring these plans to fruition.
- Make sure everyone has a say - just because you’re leading from the top doesn’t mean those lower down won’t have something of value to contribute. Don’t be hasty in shooting down the suggestions of anybody within the business on health and safety - not only does this keep you open to innovative ideas, but it also helps to keep everyone feeling engaged and involved in maintaining their own safety.
- Listen to the experts - any effective health and safety strategy should follow the latest expert guidance and government guidelines, and that goes double where COVID-19 is concerned. No matter what your political persuasion, it’s vital to stick to the official safety guidance, which has been created by experts and professionals across all industries, and block out any of the confused messaging you might find on social media; if in doubt, ask a health and safety professional for advice, as most would not charge for an answer over the phone. As we at Workplace Safety Solutions say: there is no competition in keeping people safe!
- Monitor your performance - if you’re making changes to your safety policies, you’ll need a way of checking that they are making a difference. Keeping up a daily or weekly checklist system will help ensure that all of the rules are being followed, while a confidential reporting process can empower staff to speak up when things are going wrong, without creating a blame-based culture.
- Remind everyone that safety breeds success - it’s a simple fact that the safest businesses are commonly extremely profitable. Adjusting to new rules can be difficult, especially in exceptional circumstances such as those seen today, but by reminding everyone in the company that safe working leads to a happier, more productive and more stable workplace, you can ensure everyone keeps their eyes on the prize.
Many thanks to Joe and the Workplace Safety Solutions team for sharing their expertise with the SafetyBuyer blog! To find out more about their bespoke workplace consultancy services, visit www.wpsafety.co.uk.
If you are looking for ways to reopen your business as safely as possible as the COVID-19 lockdown eases, browse our full range of coronavirus safety solutions at SafetyBuyer, or download our COVID-secure return to work guide.