If you rely on a health and safety manual, a bit of paperwork and a notice-board to communicate your health and safety messages, then trying to change the safety culture of your workforce will be an uphill struggle.

You are much more likely to succeed if you take the time to create a dynamic, creative and effective safety communications plan for the year ahead. Here’s how.

Start with your workforce

The best place to start is to involve your workforce. Find out what their concerns are and what they believe needs to be addressed. Then think about the key messages you want to get across and when, the channels of communication available, who you are talking to and what outcomes you wish to achieve.

Seasonal adjustment

Cold snaps, wet weather, holidays and even the festive period all have their own hazards so timing is very important. A well thought out campaign after the summer break, for example, will help people get safely back into ‘work mode’. Create your plan to allow for seasonal health and safety advice.

Risky business

Health and safety is not just seasonal. Issues such as slips, trips and falls; safe use of PPE; fire hazards; the importance of good housekeeping and near miss reporting, to name a few, are factors which are present all year round and need to be addressed and reiterated in your plan.

Make it relevant

There is no health and safety ‘one size fits all’. Your plan needs to be specific to you, your workforce and your working environment – otherwise it will be dismissed as ‘not relevant’ by your employees. This is why actively involving and engaging your workforce will increase your success.

Make it stand out

There are many different ways to get your message across. This may include leaflets or safety specific newsletters; poster campaigns; face-to-face contact through toolbox talks, training sessions and workshops; message boards; near miss stations – even screen savers can help get the message across.

Make it ‘reel’

Safety films are a great communication and discussion tool. They allow you to get more information across in a relatively short space of time – much more engaging than lengthy safety manuals. Dramatised scenarios can be powerful and evocative and you are able to get the most complicated messages across in ways that are easy to understand and identify with. Why not include some of your own employees in the film to make it relevant to your company and your people?

Make it heard

It is all very well having a fantastic safety communications plan and an abundance of ideas but if your messages are not being put forward in an engaging and memorable way, then you may as well not bother. Consider who is presenting your company’s safety message, have they got adequate speaker notes or a manager’s guide to help them prepare? Choose presenters who are confident, enthusiastic and can put their point across well… and make sure you give them something interesting to present. Using visuals, film clips, interaction and discussion points can bring a presentation to life and make it more engaging and memorable.

Commitment to succeed

Finally, you must make sure that you have the commitment of all senior management and directors to your communication plan, as creating an effective health and safety culture is part of everyone’s job. Looking after people and preventing accidents and ill health is the best investment a company can make.

This article was originally published by in January 2013 by Hill Solomon.