Physical distancing has changed the way we communicate at work. While group safety meetings and tailgate meetings are temporarily on hold, safety managers can use a variety of creative communication tools to distribute safety messages to workers in the solid waste and recycling industry.
By Will Flower

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A safety manager hangs posters with simple safety messages to remind drivers of the importance of safety.

For years, the safety meeting has been the primary setting to communicate with drivers, helpers and laborers. The typical safety meeting was held in the early morning on a weekly or monthly schedule. At the meeting, safety managers, drivers, helpers and laborers would discuss a specific safety initiative, share best practices and review safety statistics. However, the onset of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic along with guidelines for physical distancing, eliminated opportunities to gather groups, forcing safety managers to rely on other modes of communication.

Safety is critical during the pandemic, just as it was prior to the crisis. And, effective communication is needed to drive home the importance of safety. In place of traditional face-to-face meetings, safety professionals are turning to other means of communication. In some cases, printed flyers and posters are being used to communicate with employees. Safety newsletters and e-mail are also used. Technology also provides a variety of new communication tools using smart phones, tablets and computers.

“We use a variety of tools to get our safety messages to employees,” said Tim Corey, Director of Safety at Winters Bros Waste Systems on Long Island, NY. “During the pandemic, we rely on technology and applications to push safety messages out to employees. Because most employees use social media, we have some great tools available to promote workplace safety.” Apps like Basecamp, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, WhatsApp and Twitter are just a few communication tools that can be used to share information, exchange messages, provide comments and post information about safety in the workplace.

“The key is to get the messages onto platforms where employees are hanging out,” said Corey. Another way to reach employees is to set up online groups where employees can share safety suggestions. Once a group is formed, participants can post safety questions and respond with suggestions or recommendations. Posting information that is fun, fresh and relevant is important to keep employees engaged. Photos and short video clips will help attract and maintain a worker’s attention.

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Most employees have mobile devices and use social media accounts. Apps can be used to send short safety messages promoting workplace safety.

Communication Safety Messages
Posters, flyers, newsletters and social media are all excellent tools for communicating and sharing information. The following are some basic tips for effective communication:
• Be short and to the point.
• Make all safety messages relevant and interesting.
• Avoid posting online when drivers are working on a route. Consider sharing information during the early evening or early morning so as not to distract drivers from their task.
• Make sure your messages are appropriate. Use common sense.
• Use good grammar. Check spelling and punctuation prior to printing or hitting the send or post button.
• Avoid using all capital letters (which is seen as shouting or yelling).
• Make posters and posts visually appealing.

Safety managers should continually monitor communication tools to ensure safety messages are effectively delivered to employees. You can tweet, post and blog all you want, but if no one is receiving the message, it is a waste of time and resources. The key is to monitor posts and see what is working. The simplest way to do this is to talk with employees and ask if they are seeing safety messages. More importantly, ask for recommendations from employees about topics to cover and other platforms that can be used to share information.

Having regular conversations about safety is a best practice. Keep in mind that the best conversations are dialogs in which employees have the opportunity to participate in the discussion by voicing their concerns, sharing opinions, and talking about the risks and challenges they face. When conversations cannot be done in person, implementing alternative methods for communicating safety messages demonstrates the organization’s commitment to keeping the workforce safe. And with so many options, safety managers can easily adopt a multi-mode communication strategy that effectively communicates important messages to employees. | WA


Apps to Help Safety Managers Communicate  and Collaborate

There are an abundance of tools to help employers connect with and communicate among employees. These tools can be used to share best practices and safety messages under these unique circumstances caused by the pandemic.

safety3The following are some of the more common apps that allow you to connect with workers:
Twitter—A simple communication medium. Users sign up for a Twitter account and post “tweets,” which are short messages. All messages are visible to the public by default, however, members can limit views to their “followers,” (those who have signed up to follow a particular member). Even though Twitter messages are limited, it is still a good platform to disseminate simple safety messages to followers.

LinkedIn—A professional networking app. There are a number of safety networking groups that provide excellent insight on safety issues. Participants can follow groups, companies and individuals who post safety information.

Facebook—Currently the most widely used of all the social media with more than 2 billion monthly users. With the Facebook App, you can create a group for employees to exchange safety ideas. If the group is a “closed” group, the messages posted will only be available to those who have been granted access to the group. Keeping messages short and interesting will help get employees to see your posts.

WhatsApp—A messaging app that allows the formation of large groups in which information can be shared. Regular posts to the group will allow members of the group to comment on and provide additional information. New subjects can be regularly added for the group to see.
For online meetings, users may try Basecamp, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, Hipchat Hubspot, or Zoom.us. Each of these platforms allow employees to meet online and work collaboratively.


 

Next month’s Safety Brief will get back to the basics as we discuss physical conditioning.

Will Flower is the Vice President of Corporate and Public Affairs at Winters Bros. Waste Systems. Will has 36 years of experience in the area of solid waste management and environmental protection. He has held operational and executive leadership positions at the Director’s Office of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Waste Management, Inc., Republic Services. Inc. and Green Stream Recycling. Share your safety tip. Submit your suggestions to Will Flower at will@wintersbros.com.

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