Australian marketer and communicator, Marie-Claire Ross, has moved from video to print with a new book called “Transform Your Safety Communication“. The book approaches safety communications from the marketing perspective and provides a terrific primer in how to write about workplace safety effectively.
Marie-Claire Ross writes that
“Too often, safety professionals are taught about compliance, but not the right skills to influence and engage others.” (page 12)
This is not a deficiency of just the OHS academia. Such a statement would equally apply to most professions. Commercial communication skills, those required other than for essays, assignments and theses, are rarely included in any curriculum other than journalism and marketing. As such, this book is likely to have benefits way beyond the safety profession.
Also, it is not compliance that is taught, it is safety. The principles of OHS can change lives but OHS must work with compliance and regulators to achieve that change.
Ross is up front about the marketing perspective, stating that the book:
“…provides you with easy shortcuts to quickly produce safety communication using all of the social psychologist techniques that advertising agencies use.” (page 13)
The challenge is always to communicate without the audience feeling manipulated. It could be argued that Zero Harm is an example of a sound aim that has been poorly communicated.
Ross’ book is super-contemporary discussing memes, infographics and video as well as the basics. Her chapter on creating a safety message – basically, how to write about Safety in plain English – is very good for the beginner, or the OHS professional who has no safety communication skills, but could have benefited from a critical analysis of safety communications that have failed – overuse of posters, reliance on newsletters that contain good information but no one ever reads, the insincerity of a heavily scripted OHS induction or the impersonality of the video safety “toolbox”. Given that one of Australia’s most successful OHS advertising campaigns has been WorkSafe’s Homecoming campaign, the book may have benefited from a deconstruction of that campaign and a discussion of the societal “truth” and psychology that underpins its success.
The book would be an excellent supplement to academic OHS courses to illustrate how dusty and labyrinthine academic tomes and concepts can be better communicated and to a larger audience, for knowledge is useless unless it is shared and shared in a way that is readily understood.
I think “Transform Your Safety Communication” succeeds in its aims and many OHS professionals and students will benefit enormously from this terrific book, as have I. But I think I’m also looking for a different book, one that tells me what safety communications have worked but perhaps even more importantly, what hasn’t.
A review copy of the book was provided to SafetyAtWorkBlog.