• Leadership Update

Safety Conversations

For a conversation to be effective, the people involved need to alternatively talk and listen. Unfortunately, some leaders are prone to lecturing, with very little listening. The prevalent communication style of managers and supervisors is a barometer of the safety culture.

Occasional, one-way safety conversations are telltale signs of a culture of complacency. Frequent, interactive safety conversations are indicative of a culture of commitment.

The only way you can learn about hidden process or organization issues is to ask the right questions in the right way and then listen to the answers. Most of us believe that we are good listeners, but research shows that we seldom hear what people are saying in the way it was intended to be heard. Active listening is hard work!

An effective safety conversation includes listening for the responses to all questions. You are seeking to learn about any potential influences on risk. People don't take risks without a reason. As someone once said: “People do what they do because it made sense to them at the time that they did it.

Some key points to remember:

  • To make a long-lasting impact, take a persuasive approach rather than a punitive one when discussing safety.
  • Before speaking to someone about safety, consider the motivations of that person, and tailor the conversation to those motivations.
  • Effective safety conversations are a skill that must be practiced.
Read more about safety conversations and delivery techniques at ISRI.org.

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