When Your Message Is Safety, You Have to Focus on Your Delivery

As a supervisor, you probably get tired of telling your people that what they’re doing isn’t safe. In addition to making you tired, those direct corrections can put your crew members on the defensive. When people feel defensive, they are less likely to accept new information, and less able to act on it.

Here are some alternatives you can use when you feel like yelling "Hey! That’s not safe!"

  • Instead of: "Hey, that’s not safe! Don’t lean over that far when you’re on a ladder!"
    Try: "Why don’t you come down from there for a sec; I’ll help you reposition the ladder."
  • Instead of: "That makeshift scaffold is not acceptable." 
    Try: "I appreciate that you want to get this done today, but the scaffolding will arrive this afternoon, and it’s important to me that you’re still in one piece when you go home."
  • Instead of: "How do you think you’re going to get out of that trench if it starts to collapse?"
     "Here’s a ladder. Come on up now, and we’ll get a trench box in there to protect you before you get started on your work."
  • Instead of: "Who spilled this?"
    Try: "Tom, take a break from what you’re working on and clean up this spill, please, so you don’t slip."
  • Instead of: "Hey, that’s not safe."
    Try: "It’s too risky. Let’s make another plan."
    Try: "That looks pretty dicey. I want you to stay safe."
    Try: "What’s your plan for controlling those hazards?"” And "How can I help?"

One of the most effective tools you have as a supervisor is your ability to communicate calmly and clearly, even in dangerous situations. But being a good communicator takes practice. When you make it a habit to consistently use positive, clear words when you’re describing jobsite hazards, you’ll be better able to do so when stress levels are high.