How language influences safety culture – an interview with Zoe Davies

(Pictured: Zoe Davies)

IOSH 2019, our global conference for health and safety professionals, takes place from 16-17 September at the ICC in the centre of Birmingham.

Zoe Davies, Senior Health and Safety Advisor at IMG, will be delivering a session on 16 September called ‘Watch your language’, which draws on research from thought-leaders in language and marketing and looks at how different generations consume information, instruction and training.

This knowledge can be vital in helping health and safety practitioners communicate within their organisations and achieve results.

In the run-up to IOSH 2019, we spoke with Zoe about the importance of language and communication in the sector.

Hi Zoe. Why is it important we adjust our language for different audiences?

“We use language every day to engage with, inform and to get information from people. Language helps us to gain trust, build relationships and understand the needs of others. We also fit or adjust our language to the individual person we are speaking to. This understanding of how people think and communicate helps to improve efficiency and achieve our desired outcomes. If you get to know someone, you can tailor the message to that individual.

“Sales training shows the importance of getting to know your customers. The power of sales can be useful in getting people to get on board with health and safety. By getting to know colleagues responsible for managing risk and communicating on their level, we can change perceptions and help to shift how organisations view practitioners.”

Could you provide some tips for OSH professionals for communicating the importance of health and safety within their organisations?

“It’s all well and good to know regulations, but it’s important to talk to people in their own language and help them to see the importance of what you are saying. By understanding what people already know, it is easier to understand their thought processes and work out the best way of demonstrating the importance of health and safety within an organisation and getting people on board. This approach is far more effective than telling people what to do or scaring people into compliance.”

How do you make health and safety sound engaging to younger generations?

“When it comes to using language to convey information, different age groups respond to different approaches – millennials, for example, engage in different ways to Gen Z. It is important that we, as OSH professionals, use different platforms for communicating and learn to adjust our language and messaging accordingly. Younger age groups, for example, tend to be used to multitasking and are familiar with a range of social media. In some instances, it can be more effective to communicate through short videos or apps than sending 15-page documents or emails. This demonstrates the importance of knowing your audience and how best to accommodate their individual requirements!”



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