Safety Communication’s 3 Big Mistakes: Too Much, Too Complex, Not Useable

Global Congress on Process Safety
April 4, 2012 - 2:00pm-2:30pm

This was presented at the 8th Global Congress on Process Safety, Houston TX, April 4th 2012

Safety Communication’s 3 Big Mistakes: Too Much, Too Complex, Not Useable

Dr TJ Larkin shows what’s wrong with our safety communication and how to fix it.

A typical safety manager receives about 50 safety emails a day.  The writing, on average, is grade-level 16 (only 4% of adults can read at that level).  The communication is usually written as solid blocks of text−completely unsuitable for supervisors wanting to use the communication in a toolbox meeting.

Big improvements are possible.  The communication’s front page should be a visual display of the main point.  “Visual” means a simple hand drawing summarizing the main point surrounded by small blocks of callout text.  The writing in these small text blocks should be grade level 5 to 7 (understood by 60% of adults).   This visual approach increases comprehension between 100% and 600%.  More complicated pages of technical information can follow behind the simple visual front page.

Supervisors could pull this visual front page from their printers and use it immediately in toolbox meetings.  Supervisor-led safety discussions matter.  The correlation between supervisor’s toolbox meetings and serious accidents is −0.65.  Further, it is 13 times more likely that an employee will change his/her behavior after a discussion with his/her supervisor−compared with the employee simply reading the text alone.


Dr. TJ Larkin

Dr. TJ Larkin and Sandar Larkin are partners in Larkin Communication Consulting. For more than 25 years, they have been helping large companies improve communication with employees.

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