How do you use hazard awareness material?

Materials are the easiest and cheapest method to raise awareness. Unfortunately, they are also the least effective. This method consists of putting posters on bulletin boards, handing out brochures, giving employees buttons to wear or bumper stickers for their cars, having employees watch videos and presenting safety awards.

To make this method work you must search for and purchase materials that directly address the hazard. Secondly, they must be good quality and for a mixed audience. I define a mixed audience as older and younger workers, native English speakers and non-native English speakers, visually and hearing impaired workers and those with normal vision and hearing, and employees from a variety of cultures. This means that not everyone will respond the same way to awareness material. For example, suppose you have posted an English-only poster on the hazards of eye injuries. A worker that recently emigrated from Mexico may not be able to read and understand the poster. This is likely to prevent him from participating in the awareness. Historically speaking, workers left out like this are the most liable to get hurt. I like posters and banners that show the hazard and preventive measure as well as describe them. This way a non-native English speaker should be able to visually understand the message even if they cannot read the poster.

You can use videos that play in the break room or have short supervisor sessions where employees watch the films as a team. Either way, they must be short with someone present to answer any questions that may come up. Safety award presentations work only if they target a specific hazard. For example, a safe driver when the hazard has been identified as forklifts colliding with shelving.

The message on any awareness material has got to be pithy. It must describe the hazard and recommend a preventive measure in a way that almost everyone can understand. However, I recommend that you stay away from slogans that might confuse people. A good example is the company slogan Safety First. Daily, workers are likely told that production is the priority. This creates a contradiction that may lead employees to believe the slogan is a joke. Make sure slogans are realistic and genuine.

I have used awareness materials for over 20 years, and they have a place in any awareness effort. What I find missing is any attempt to see if they are working. When I use posters, I focus on a hazard. I first check employee behavior for 30 days before putting the posters up. I leave the posters up for thirty days. Then I check the employee behavior after the posters come down to see if the employees faced with the hazard were using the preventive measure the poster recommended. If I find the employee behavior has not changed, the poster failed to accomplish its purpose. You cannot expect 100% success with every poster, but I would work towards improving behavior by at least 60 percent through this type of awareness effort. I report these results of an awareness campaign to management.

About Fred Fanning Author

Fred Fanning spent over 20 years in the safety profession. His final safety position was as the Director of Occupational Safety and Health for the U.S. Department of Commerce. He began writing in 1994, published his first book in 1998, and began writing professionally in 2015. He has authored and coauthored articles, written books, and chapters for technical books and stories for anthologies.
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