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Future Proofing Workplace Health and Safety

Sue Chennell - Tuesday, March 08, 2016


Do you ever find yourself in conversation with a younger colleague and sometimes wonder what language they’re speaking?

I’m a typical generation X. I embrace some parts of the digital world (my i-phone and social media) but I still love a good old face to face conversation, my paper diary and vinyl records.


With an age gap of nearly 50 years between the oldest and youngest employees in some companies, there is now a broad range of perspectives, needs and language floating around the workplace. As generation Y’s (and in the near future Gen Z’s) firmly plant themselves in Australian workplaces, its clear WHS professionals and the profession at large needs to understand how to tailor communication to this go-getting, digitalised workforce.


Business Insider, 2013, Courtesy ANZ


Demographics or Psychographics


Recently I was fortunate to hear the futurist Anders Sormann-Nilsonn of the strategic think tank Thinque, discuss how today's generational shift will reshape the future workplace. See what Thinque are all about here Thinque.

What became apparent to me was that the shift from watching demographics to understanding individual worker psychographics is key to the effectiveness of future workplace health, safety and wellbeing endeavours.


Consider your 25-year-old worker. Smart, creative, productive and achievement orientated - outside of work they lead a highly digitalised life. Interface savvy, with apps, wearable technology, instant messaging and visual platforms (think Snapchat, Instagram etc) this worker has always had all the information they’ve needed at their fingertips via the Internet.


Digital versus analogue


Now lets consider what happens when this 25 year old comes to work. Does your largely analogue workplace health and safety system engage with this person? Sure, you may have online incident reporting but in the main, the procedures with which you’re trying to engage this increasingly younger workforce are analogue and in their view, archaic.


Is it time to smarten up your digital channels to visually engage and enlighten in the health and safety space?


Now that mobile phones have become our third hand, the use of QR codes is on the increase. The codes can be embedded into procedures linking to task based videos or other visual information that are quickly and easily retrieved by the target audience from the use of their phone.


A more ‘real time’ communication tool for health and safety could be the use of an interface such as Whatsapp. As up to 50 users can chat in real-time, and share video and voice messages there is huge opportunity to leverage real time portals such as this for health and safety messaging, alerts, meetings, feedback loops and surveys. As respondents notice the message quicker so the corresponding action comes about faster.


Have you ever thought of creating internal visual health and safety communications through the use of hashtags (think #take5 or #standandstretch) perhaps uploaded onto an intranet or internal instagram-style page?


What about collaborative work platforms such as Podio? These platforms enable greater real-time sharing of information and even peer reward and recognition. I utilise platforms such as this for a lot of my project work. It frees up the inbox and links tasks to documents and provides a great sharing and communication portal for my teams and clients.


Whatever modality you use, consider your psychographics. Your Gen Xers will be able to adapt to digitisation but what about your baby boomers? Consider your target audience, their needs and their capabilities and you might need to adjust or train and coach accordingly.


Be still my beating analogue heart



My generation X heart still thinks nothing replaces those good old one-on-one conversations. It’s important to identify the parts of your health and safety strategy that must remain untouched by digital, and the parts that could be digitised. Once you’ve found that middle ground there is literally a plethora of digital tools and apps at your fingertips that can be adapted to the health and safety space in addition to your analogue experiences.

It depends of course on your type of business and workforce but using real time, meaningful and visual health and safety communication can have many benefits:

  1. -Workers hearts and minds engaged in the health and safety message;
  3. -Systems more likely to be effectively implemented at the coal face;
  5. -Greater opportunity for worker feedback
  7. -Collaborative workplace community with meaningful peer recognition; and
  9. -A workforce both personally and professionally digitised

Want to know more or chew the fat over this topic? Comment below or drop us a line at

Anonymous commented on 27-Apr-2016 09:19 PM
Very scholastic and alluring post... I enjoyed reading your article. I will share this article with my friends. Keep posting...
Frank Simms commented on 20-Jun-2018 04:46 PM
A really good blog that reminds us that a system needs to cater to its audience and participants as much as meet the standard. We are working on the new ISO45001 standard for our company and found some help from JLB at for our engineering company here in Adelaide. Our safety management system needs to maintain a zero accident outcome over the year and I believe this is possible.

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