Communicating Workplace Safety: Circle of Fellows #62

Communicators asked to communicate workplace safety often would rather sit down for dental work. Worst, in some organizations, the communication department never deals with safety because the safety department buys all its communication from a third party, which makes it all generic and less relevant than strategies implemented internally. Other organizations confine their safety communication to that which is required to be compliant with regulations.

Yet safety communication can be vitally important. Besides the obvious vital outcome of avoiding injury or death, a focus on safety tells employees the company cares about them. When former U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill took over the CEO job at the struggling Alcan, he decided to focus his attention almost entirely on safety. That helped employees focus more deeply on process, which ultimately made the company a better place to work. When he O’Neill left the company, its income was five times higher than when he started and its market value soared from $3 billion to more than $27 billion.

There is another dimension of safety communication that is often overlooked altogether. Psychological safety may not be addressable by wearing PPE and eliminating hazards like exposed electrical wires, but it is equally important in achieving the goal of employees being able to bring their best selves to work every day and go home whole every night.

Psychological safety extends beyond injury avoidance into areas like harassment and diversity/inclusion.

All these dimensions of safety communication were on the table when four IABC Fellows joined moderator Shel Holtz for the October installment of “Circle of Fellows.”

About the panel

Alice Brink is an internationally recognized communications consultant. Her firm, A Brink & Co., works with businesses and nonprofits to clarify their messages and communicate them in ways that change people’s minds. Her clients have included Shell Oil Company, Sysco Foods and Noble Energy. Prior to launching A Brink & Co. in Houston in 2004, Alice honed her craft both in corporate settings (including The Coca-Cola Company, Conoco and First Interstate Bank) and in one of Texas’ largest public relations firms, where she led the agency’s energy and financial practices. Alice has been active in IABC for more than 30 years, including serving as chapter president, district director and Gold Quill chair. She is the vice chair of the IABC Academy.

Neil Griffiths, ABC, Chart.PR, IABC Fellow, is senior manager, global communication & global inclusion lead at ERM, the world’s largest sustainability consultancy. Neil has worked in communication management for over 15 years in public, private and nonprofit organizations. Neil is a serial volunteer and has held a number of leadership positions on global committees within IABC, including the inaugural Global Communications Certification Council. Neil was chair of the 2018 IABC World Conference held in Montreal in June 2018. He has been recognized with awards for his leadership within the profession, being made IABC Fellow in June 2019. Together with co-author Deborah Hinton, Neil has published two studies on the current and future state of the communication profession and has spoken on the topic at several conferences. Neil holds the Freedom of London and is a member of the Company of Public Relations Practitioners.

Martha Muzychka — one of our newest Fellows, from the Class of 2019 — speaks, writes, listens and helps others do the same to make change happen. Martha is a strategic, creative problem solver seeking challenging communications environments where we can make a difference. She helps her clients navigate competing priorities and embrace communications challenges. Martha offers strategic planning, facilitation and consultation services as well as writing and editing, qualitative research and policy analysis. Her work has been recognized locally, nationally and internationally with multiple awards.

Angela Sinickas is the founder of Sinickas Communications, which has worked with companies, organizations and governments in 32 countries on six continents. Her clients include 25% of the Forbes Top 100 largest global companies. Before starting her own consulting firm, she held positions from editor to vice president in for-profit and government organizations and worked as a senior consultant and practice leader at Hewitt and Mercer. She is the author of a manual, How to Measure Your Communication Programs (now in its third edition), and chapters in several books. Her 150+ articles in professional journals can be found on her website, Her work has been recognized with 21 international-level Gold Quill Awards from IABC, plus her firm was named IABC Boutique Agency of the Year in 2015. She holds a B.S. degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an M.S. in leadership from Northeastern University.

Shel Holtz

Shel Holtz, IABC Fellow, ABC, is director of internal communications at Webcor, a commercial general contractor headquartered in San Francisco. Before joining Webcor, Shel spent 21 years as principal of Holtz Communication + Technology. In addition to integrating technology into communications strategies, his expertise includes strategic communications planning, change management, organizational culture, business initiatives and communications research.

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