The safety pros at Safety Management Group in Indianapolis have penned an article that can help you get better cooperation from your work teams - and better safety compliance, too. Here are some key points:
Words Don't Mean Much
Humans do far more “listening” with our eyes than our ears. Scientists say that only about 7 percent of messages we receive comes through the words. Another 28 percent comes from the way those words are delivered. But a full 55 percent of messages are conveyed through the speaker’s body language. So when a safety pro speaks to a group of workers, the nonverbal components of the message can have a greater impact than what’s actually being said. The professional’s physical appearance, the body language, the tone and the pace of the voice determine how carefully the workers will listen and how much they’ll retain.
Remember You’re Dealing with PEOPLE
PEOPLE is a handy acronym that makes it easy to remember the six key elements of body language:
P stands for Posture and Gestures. Nonverbal communications are transmitted through the eyes, face, hands, arms, legs and posture. Open, extended arms indicate acceptance, while crossed arms tend to signal defensiveness and tightly crossed legs signal disagreement.
E refers to Eye Contact. When you look someone else in the eyes, they’re more likely to perceive you as an honest person who is interested in what they have to say. When people are uncomfortable or uneasy, they tend to avoid eye contact.
O is for Orientation. How and where you stand sends strong messages to workers. Standing among the workers, in the middle of the group or along the edges, sends a message that the safety person is a peer, not a supervisor. It makes the crew more open to what’s being said and more likely to speak up or raise concerns.
P refers to Presentation. How do you deliver your message? Far too many safety professionals use the classroom model and lecture, which sends the message that they think they’re smarter. Safety briefings and toolbox talks should be conversations. Ask questions and encourage comments.
L is shorthand for Looks. Your dress can distance you from the crew and emphasize the differences between you and them. Small things can send huge messages. For example, well-worn work boots sends a better message than polished loafers. Wearing or carrying appropriate PPE for the jobsite suggests that you’re familiar with the work that’s being performed and reinforces the idea that the company takes safety seriously.
E addresses how you Express Emotion. People who are visibly enthusiastic seem to work harder, longer and more accurately than their more somber counterparts. Enthusiasm is contagious, so if you approach the crew with an enthusiastic attitude, you’ll start to see it rub off. If you act hesitant, the people you encounter will reflect that emotion.
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