Communication Safety


What Is The Definition Of Effective Safety Communication?

The NRC’s SCPS defines Effective Safety Communication as communications that maintain a focus on safety.

 Why Is This Trait Important?

Effective safety communication is vital to maintaining a safety culture. When employees regularly communicate with each other in an open, respectful manner, they are also more willing to give and receive feedback. Effective communication also supports teamwork and coordination between groups. Employees learn about, and become part of, an organization’s safety culture through communication.

Lack of clear communication from management can result in situations where managers say one thing but do another. Employees then spend time and energy trying to interpret the conflicting messages. In such situations, employees will generally interpret a manager’s behavior as the more valid indicator of the organization’s values and priorities. Persistent mismatches between formal and informal communications can lead employees to disregard or develop a cynical view of formal communications. This can lead to ineffective formal communications from management and a weakened safety culture.

Top-down communication is most effective when senior managers communicate directly with immediate supervisors and immediate supervisors communicate with their staff. Ensuring that supervisors are informed about organizational issues, and then allowing them to communicate these issues to their staff, helps create and reinforce the supervisor’s power. Research shows that when employees perceive their supervisor as having power, employees have greater trust in their supervisor, greater desire to communicate with their supervisor, and are more likely to believe the information coming from their supervisor.

Upward communication from workers to managers, and information exchange among workers, is essential for organizational learning and safe operations. An employee’s perceptions about support for safety can strongly influence his or her willingness to speak up. Some common barriers to upward communication include fear of retaliation, concerns that the communication will be filtered as it goes up the chain of command, perceptions that management is resistant to critical feedback, and fear of creating interpersonal conflict. These communication barriers, if unaddressed, can have a negative impact on information exchange, organizational learning, and ultimately safe performance. To facilitate effective upward communication, it is important for managers to create an environment that is supportive, encouraging, and accepting of both positive and negative feedback, so employees always feel free to speak up.