Company leaders consistently tell me that their No. 1 priority is safety. For the most part, I believe this is the case. This being said, the reality is that our safety talks to Latinos very frequently fall short of the level of importance and priority we affirm.
I would like to help you with your safety talks with Latinos. I am speaking specifically here about the presentation of the actual safety talks. There are three key words that will point the way as it relates to delivering information on the subject of safety. They are:
ClearSafety talks need to be clear. The question is, “How do you create clarity?” There are three elements to clarity in communications. Ask yourself if your safety talks meet these three criteria. When communication is clear and effective, the following three things are in place:
- The actual language is unmistakable.
- The message is culturally relevant.
- The content itself is well defined and easily understood.
An average message given by an outstanding messenger becomes an outstanding message. An outstanding message given by an average or poor messenger becomes an average or poor message. In other words, the message begins with the messenger. Are your safety talks given by a respected and skilled messenger? If not, find one or train one. If your most skilled messenger does not speak Spanish, then by all means invest in a quality Spanish training course for this person. Call me, I’ll help you.
If a company continues to use inferior means to give a supposedly top-priority message, one thing is clear - the message is really not a top priority!
To ensure that your safety presentations are effective, a professionally developed, culturally relevant message must be given by a respected and skilled messenger. Are your safety talks clear?
One more very important point: The only way to truly know if a message is clear is to get validation. Most organizations have people sign something indicating that they were there, but how do you really know they got it? Can you just assume people understand? You should always validate understanding. I would much rather see a clear five-minute safety talk and then a five-minute validation quiz than to have a 10-minute safety talk that I do not know if people truly understood or not.
By the way, this is a very good strategy in case something ever does go wrong. At least you have validation that not only did you do the safety training but that they actually understood the training. These can be simple multiple-choice tests or one- to two-word answer type quizzes, but the point is that you get validation that the message was understood. I hope this is clear!
ConsistentIf something is a top priority in an organization, would it get addressed only once a month? This is doubtful. However, many organizations limit their safety talks to once a month, and some address safety even less often. The message to your people is clear: The lack of consistency means lack of importance.
So, first off, how frequent are your safety talks? Best practice is a minimum of once a week for formal talks.
Short but relevant safety talks are also given daily in best practice situations. Before a crew is released, a short reminder should be given regarding any new developments or awareness issues on the jobsite. Some companies effectively use safety signs on their jobsites and in their vehicles. Safety talks do not always need to be formal or verbal, but they do need to be consistent.
CompellingIf something is really important, it should feel like it, especially to Latinos. We are a more feeling-oriented society and most of us subconsciously measure the importance of a matter based on the conviction and emphasis given to the message by the messenger.
Safety talks should be compelling. They should be full of real-life, heart-wrenching, family-saving examples. The tone of the talk should be heartfelt and serious. This speech may well save someone’s life, and if it is given in a monotone, dull, dry, or otherwise lifeless manner, well, someone may just end up losing a life.
Do your safety talks bring up compelling issues like family, economic well-being, future ability to progress in the company and provide for loved ones? If they don’t, they should. That approach will resonate a lot more with Latinos than talking about OSHA regulations. Now, I’m not saying people shouldn’t be taught important laws and regulations - rather that it should be done within a greater context of family, progress, financial stability, future potential, etc.
If you need help with a safety trainer learning Spanish (or one learning English), please let me know and I’ll help you. I have a free book titled “How to Really Learn Spanish” that might also be of help to you. If you would like to receive it, just send me an e-mail message at the address below and we’ll get it to you.
Be clear, be consistent, and by all means, be compelling!