Inderscience Publishers

The stifled expertise of safety communications

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Safety communications can offer an important contribution to workplace safety. In the oil and gas industry, however, safety communications have received very little dedicated attention. There is a wide gap between how safety communications are practised in this industry and extensive research on what communication means for humans in contemporary cultures. This paper explores some of the barriers that exist in the oil and gas industry to prevent better use of safety communications to improve employee safety. It argues that safety communications must include an acceptance of multiple meanings in any message, and that negotiation over what safety means is more important than rules which tell employees what safety is. In order to implement such an approach to safety communications, there is a need to challenge the beliefs that organisations have a single safety culture; managers lead the safety culture; and an emphasis on compliance is mandatory for safety to be achieved. The practices of safety communication, as well as the content of and methods for safety communications, need to emphasise the need for individuals to participate in the everyday negotiation of what they understand to be safe.

Keywords: communication, safety, safety communications, safety rules, lifesaving rules

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