Welcome to the grand finale of our 3-part series on getting the most from your safety program!
In Part 1, we talked about treating your safety manual like a cookbook.
Part 2 was about the importance of delivering the right message to the right audience.
Here in Part 3, we’re going to tie it all together with some tips on how to write a manual that your team actually wants to read. Because that’s the final piece of the puzzle, isn’t it? Even the best safety manual on the planet is useless if it doesn’t get read, and even if it does get read, it has to be understandable.
One thing we’ve heard over and over again from our subscribers and clients is that you appreciate the way we break down the convoluted technical requirements of your manuals and programs into clear and actionable language. Working with us means you can get back to doing when you do best, and remain confident that your safety program is an accurate representation of your company’s safety culture.
That’s no accident. (Three cheers for safety jokes!) We work hard to support and encourage your safety culture by implementing and recording the things that are important to you and your clients. We listen closely to what you tell us so that we can make sure your priorities are written down and preserved in your safety manual.
But how do we translate what you say into a trusted and well-referenced manual? That’s what this article is about.
Public Works Canada has a great (and hilarious!) resource on plain language, and here are a few tips we use and recommend when putting together safety programs for our clients. This is how we ensure your safety manual is read, enjoyed, and referenced in everyday business scenarios:
Forget all the fancy “best practices” you learned in post-secondary school and around conference tables—your safety manual is no place for academic language or heady, confusing concepts. Remember that this is a living document, and we mean that in every sense of the word. It’s as alive as your safety culture is, subject to change as your company grows, and it’ll keep people alive if your people can understand it and use it every day.
If you’re stuck about how to describe something in your manual, grab your phone and record yourself talking about it out loud. That recording will be a lot closer to the final product than you may think, and it’ll have the added benefit of sounding like you and reflecting your company’s brand personality. When your manual is complete (or at least complete until the next update!), read the whole thing out loud from beginning to end, and be ruthless about rewriting or replacing things that don’t sound like you.
Our eyes tend to glaze over when faced with long stretches of text, so do your readers a favor by breaking things up on every page. Use lists, bullet points, and subheadings to break things up, draw attention, and summarize important concepts.
You’ve probably noticed that our newsletter is very visual, and that each blog post we publish has an accompanying image. It’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words, and it’s also true that pictures are an oasis—they give the eye a place to rest and return to when absorbing important concepts.
Pictures aren’t the only way to make your manual visually appealing. Use colors, fonts, illustrations, charts, graphs, numbers, and formulas in creative ways to help your readers see things in new ways.
You can ask rhetorical questions throughout or at the end of your manul, embed quizzes and concept summaries, or offer suggestions for real-world application and/or further reading. Making your safety manual interactive will minimize the risk of your readers tuning out important information, and will give you the opportunity to make the safety manual into a topic of conversation during performance reviews, at Lunch ‘n Learns, or during Toolbox Talks.
We hope the tips in this article help you to take your safety manual to the next level, but if you feel overwhelmed by the possibilities, please reach out and let us help! We’d be honored to partner with you on a safety program that exceeds your and your clients’ requirements, reinforces your corporate commitment to safety, and builds your business for years to come.