We are all well aware of the importance of handwashing and social distancing in preventing the spread of COVID-19. But there is another weapon in your arsenal that is just as vital: communication. It’s one thing to implement precautions in theory, but quite another to put them into practice. Only by keeping your team in the loop at all times can you be sure that everyone is doing their bit.
What do we mean by H&S comms?
By H&S comms, we are referring to any method of conveying health and safety information to your employees. This includes things like:
- Formal training sessions and meetings
- Written health and safety policies
- Informal conversations
- Email alerts
Why are H&S comms so important?
The law requires you take steps to reduce the risk of coronavirus in the workplace, and this includes consulting with your staff. But it isn’t just about legal compliance. Strong H&S communication has many benefits, both for you and for your employees.
Frequent consultations allow you to explain any recent changes to your H&S policies. As well as keeping staff updated, you can check their understanding of existing measures. Things may take a while to sink in, so every communication is a chance for a refresher.
Consulting your employees gives them the opportunity to express any safety concerns they may have. There may be weaknesses in your COVID-19 measures that are more apparent to those working on the front line than they are to you. Regular communication with staff ensures that precautions reflect the reality of the workplace.
You’ll also find that well-informed employees are better equipped to convey safety information to site visitors and other non-staff. This reduces the chance of importing an outbreak through carelessness.
How can I communicate with workers more effectively?
When it comes to H&S comms, quality is just as important as quantity. Simply repeating the message isn’t enough. You need to be sure that you are conveying the information effectively:
- Set aside enough time for a proper conversation. Rushing H&S communication may give the impression that you don’t really care, and this makes staff less likely to take it seriously. Employees will also be less willing to share their concerns if it seems like you are in a hurry.
- Find out if your employees would prefer to talk to you directly or via a trade union or other representative.
- Be clear about the actions you have agreed with your employees. Putting these in writing is essential; and follow them up to make sure they are being implemented.
- Take individual circumstances into account. Employees with medical conditions or vulnerable family members are likely to have additional concerns. Religious beliefs and cultural background can also affect a person’s attitude towards COVID-19 and normal go-to safety measures. Be mindful of this and try to come up with solutions that work for everyone.
The benefits go beyond COVID
It’s hard to look beyond the pandemic at the moment, but it won’t last forever. Strengthening your communications around COVID-19 will also improve your long-term health and safety.
Involving staff in the creation of H&S policies means that they feel more invested in the process. Employees are more likely to follow regulations that they helped to design.
It’s clear that COVID-19 has made health and safety a priority for employees who may not have given it much thought before. By focusing on communication while you have their attention, you can keep them engaged in health and safety long after the pandemic has passed.
The pandemic has transformed the nature of workplace health and safety. Even a year later, new challenges are still appearing. If you’re struggling to convey health and safety information to your staff or just need confirmation and support, don’t hesitate to give us a call.