On 3 May 2010, I was privileged to be invited to be a plenary speaker at the 2010 conference of the New South Wales Minerals Council. My presentation was entitled “Some new ways of talking about safety online”. I discussed the use of some of the new online communication methods but ultimately came to the point that safety is most successfully communicated when the information is valid, relevant and delivered by someone trustworthy.
An extract of my presentation is below and an audio recording is available at the end. Please note that there are some swear words in the presentation.
“These new technologies are basically about communication and I am here to discuss how these technologies can be used to communicate safety information.
Two important elements are in that sentence – information and communication. Let me take information first because this is sometimes the overlooked element. The new technologies are worthless without new information to access. This information could be data that has not been available in a digital form previously – back issues of newspapers, magazines, annual reports, risk assessment reports, instruction manuals – a whole raft of data. Much of this is being digitalized so that indexing and search capacity is introduced to paper reports that exist in archives in air-conditioned sheds in Franakerpan South. Some of this can be invaluable to safety professionals where seemingly new hazards and situations appear but in reality a similar issue may have turned up in 1962 in Franakerpan North. Increasingly, I believe, we will see that many of the “new” concepts of safety management are really old concepts that have been rebadged and repackaged to sound new. Digital information can provide a deeper knowledge base which can assist us in making better decisions.
I think it is important here to acknowledge one of the reasons why the digitization of information is important. More and more businesses and corporations are losing their corporate history and organizational knowledge. We are less likely to pay attention to the wisdom of our elder employees because there are more modern ways to access what many think is new information. We are told that in the modern world we may have five careers through our lifetime in different industries and needing different skills. This can mean that we suck up information from one place, churn it into a marketable form that we then use to get our next job. The continuity, the knowledge, gets lost from the organization.
Digital information can exist without the personal, without the greedy, without the animosity or turf wars of office politics. But, and it is a big but ———- that information needs to have integrity.
The other important element is communication. All of the new technologies are methods for communication, they are not the message. Let’s have a look at some of these communication options.
Twitter provides messages of less than around 140 characters. What safety information can be provided in such a restriction? Not much. You could send tweets like “Don’t forget to wear your hi-viz vest?” or “Are your boot laces tied?” or “Have you done a risk assessment?” but after a very short while the reader will ignore such messages as, although they relate to safety, they are condescending and become a nuisance. What Twitter can do best is refer the reader to other important safety information. It can be a signpost. A tweet may be something like “Safety Alert: vehicle recall – more information at ………” with a link to the alert on your intranet.
I tend to consider Twitter as an internet version of SMS or texting on your mobile phone…….”