man welding wearing safety glasses

Don’t tell me to be safe at work.

September 6, 2016 Ness Kelly
man welding wearing safety glasses

Recently we’ve been doing some work with a great client that was open to thinking differently when it came to encouraging their staff to be safe at work. It involved some pretty deep investigation into the work culture and circumstances of various groups within the organisation. One of many interesting take aways from the project was the importance of correctly and honestly communicating internally whilst also understanding that work cultures are made up of various types of personalities.

For design communication to be effective it must reach beyond two-dimensional thinking and become tactical. Along with a clear understanding of the issue at hand and the desired outcome, most importantly we must understand the customer and their emotional and rational drivers.

In the case of workplace safety, the customer is a captive audience. They have no choice about whether or not they want to follow safety messages or be safe at work. The government requires a certain level of job specific safety understanding and documentation that forces the company, and their workers, to comply. Being forced into something is the world’s worst motivator so how a company chooses to effectively relay safety message to their staff is a tactical art.

In an occupational hazards1 article by Sandy Smith, Editor-in-Chief for EHS Today, she states that there are four separate types of workers: responsive, avoidant, proactive and indifferent, who all seek information differently based on their perceived risk and abilities. This is why the most effective delivery of safety messages is often multi-faceted.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. The message must be simple and clear. Remove unnecessary detail that may confuse your message or divert attention away from it.
  2. Use various mediums to deliver your message. As Sandy mentions above, people seek information differently so use different methods to communicate to them. Can they watch it, hear it, read it?
  3. Don’t underestimate the power of peer-to-peer communication. Word of mouth has been identified as the most valuable form of marketing with 92% of consumers believing recommendations of friends and family over advertisers.
  4. Encourage a positive message instead of negative. Messaging focussed on positive behaviour (wear safety boots) rather than negative behaviour (no open toed shoes) is more likely to be successful when trying to eradicate certain behaviours.


  1. Smith, S. (2008). Trust in communication key to workplace safety. Occupational Hazards, 70.9, 24.