How to Talk Safety to Someone Outside Your Team

How to Talk Safety to Someone Outside Your Team

15th December 2020

Perhaps you’ve found yourself in a situation where you want to talk to someone about doing certain things the safest way, or by following the right procedures for the task. Safety talks can help make people know that you support keeping safety a priority and that you care about their safety and wellbeing. But how would you approach a person who isn’t from your team or the same company? The following guide contains everything you need to know about communicating safety to someone outside your team. Please read on.

1. Pick Your Moment

Safety talk is sometimes very sensitive and requires perfect timing for it to be effective. If your current situation may end up putting someone in immediate danger, you’ll have to find a way to stop the task immediately and discuss what you’ve seen with the person. If the situation doesn’t present an urgent danger, you can wait for the person to finish the task then have the talk later on. For instance, if the person isn’t wearing the correct PPE and they are with other colleagues, you could wait for an opportune time when you could have the discussion one-on-one. This will make the talk less daunting and the person will be less defensive. Plus, you may have been wrong and having the talk at the perfect moment will save you the embarrassment in front of the victim’s crew.

2. Lead by Example

When you walk or work safely yourself, it will be much easier for the person to follow what you’re saying and doing. It also sets you up to be able to have similar discussions in the future. Being a role model helps you establish a good foundation to talk to someone concerning your opinion on how certain safety issues should be handled. You cannot expect to have an effective talk with someone about how they should wear their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) properly if you yourself are not wearing one. If the person is using the safety ladder wrongly, explain to them, with demonstrations, the proper way of safely using the access equipment. Leading by example shows that you care about safety and doing things the right way. Besides, most people are much willing to engage in safety talks without being defensive, especially when someone else initiates the discussion.

3. Ask Questions

Try as much as possible to phrase your comments as questions rather than just statements. This will help make the talk less defensive and you'll have allowed the person to explain their actions. For instance, instead of telling them, “You should go get a safety ladder.” You can simply ask, “Do you think we should get a ladder for this task?” You may have already seen the need for a ladder, but asking questions will create a more open discussion hence helping you learn more about the person’s opinion.

4. Focus on Using ‘I’ Instead of ‘You’

Focusing on your own feelings and thoughts when talking to the person can be the best way to avoid making the person argumentative or defensive. Ensure to start your sentences with “I” and not “you.” Talk about what you think and how you feel but do not talk directly about what you want them to change. For instance, instead of saying, “You know you did not…,” you can say something like “I thought the rule was….” This will make your comment less direct and you won’t look like a know-it-all if it turns out you were wrong.