How to Improve Jobsite Communication for a Safer Work Zone

Miscommunication is one of the most commonly overlooked safety hazards on a jobsite. After all, laborers aren't exactly known for being the most communicative while they're working. 

There are many things that we expect to get in the way of effective communication on a jobsite, like loud or sound-hampering equipment, cell phone use, and other distractions. But, unspoken expectations, mixed messages, and unclear communication can be just as detrimental to your team's safety. If you aren't actively promoting effective communication on your jobsite, your employees could be at risk of an accident.

For National Work Zone Awareness Week 2021, we're focusing on improving team communication to reduce workplace risks and accidents. Let's take a look at the hazards of ineffective communication and how to create a safer, more collaborative work environment.

The Dangers of Poor Jobsite Communication

National Work Zone Awareness Week goes far beyond protecting workers from the public. Employees and managers are responsible for prioritizing work zone safety, too. 

Often, we forgot to acknowledge the communication breakdown that led to an injury, accident, or mistake. At best, ineffective communication may delay a project and require double work. At worst, insufficient communication can lead to injury or death.

Undercommunicating is a common mistake on many jobsites. Managers assume that an employee hears them and understands their instructions, while workers may be reluctant to express their misunderstanding or ask questions. The gap between a manager's understanding of a situation and the worker's perspective can be disastrous when questions and two-way conversation aren't encouraged. 

Even if workers communicate with their own teammates, they can still put others on the jobsite at risk when they don't share potential hazards. For example, if a plumber is working on a leak and a nearby electrician doesn't point out exposed electrical equipment, the plumber may be taking a serious risk without even knowing it.

Speaking clearly, listening intently, and asking questions are essential to keep a jobsite safe. Even if it feels unnecessary, keeping everyone nearby looped in on potential risks may mean the difference between life and death.

How to Create a Collaborative and Communicative Work Environment

One of the reasons jobsites suffer from poor communication is because everyone is eager to dive in and complete their tasks. But, slowing down and prioritizing communication can create a more collaborative and safer work zone. 

Instead of clocking in and immediately starting to work, have a short meeting at the beginning of the shift to assign tasks or discuss what everyone is working on. Clearly define each person's tasks and communicate any expectations you have that may not be abundantly clear. These conversations keep everyone on the same page and ready to collaborate effectively.

During your discussion, be on the lookout for potential hazards that may come up when these tasks are done simultaneously on the same jobsite. Share any relevant jobsite safety tips and concerns with your team before the workday begins.

Encourage your team to ask questions and leave ample time to answer them. Employees who are eager to get to work may zone out or disengage. Keep this conversation as interactive as possible, and talk to the disengaged employee one-on-one after your meeting to address any concerns. This is the perfect time to emphasize how important regular and consistent communication is throughout the day. 

Clear communication keeps everybody safe and helps work progress more steadily. Dedicating time to communicate with your team is a valuable use of everyone's time on the jobsite. 

3 Tips to Speak More Effectively With Your Team

Everyone plays a role in fostering good communication on a jobsite. But, if you manage a team, it's important to remember that your communication directly impacts your workers' safety. Improving your jobsite communication skills can set a good example, create a safer work environment, and help your team produce better work. 
Here are 3 tips to help you communicate better with your workers.

1. Share Clear, Concise Directions
Rambling, mumbling, and ranting pose huge risks to safely completing any job.

Before you give instructions to an employee, think about the most important steps and tasks you need to share. Then, communicate what exactly you need to be done, what steps you want your employee to take, and any risks they should be aware of. Pause every two or three sentences to confirm that your employee understands what you're asking for and ask if they have any clarifying questions.

If you have specific expectations—like a worker telling you when their task is complete—be sure to share that with your worker, too.

2. Keep a Cool Head
Jobsites can be stressful, and irritation runs rampant when projects are behind. If you notice an employee deviating from your instructions or slacking off, take a few deep breaths before confronting the situation. If a situation calls for an immediate response, clearly communicate what you need at that moment without getting angry.

Anger or frustration can make workers reluctant or fearful to ask questions when they don't understand. While it may appear like your employee is actively defying your request, they may have just misunderstood your directions.

Always take an employee aside and discuss the miscommunication rather than pointing out their mistake in public. Keeping your cool can foster trust on your worksite and help workers feel more comfortable communicating with you. 

3. Listen to Your Workers
Effective communication is as much about listening as it is about talking. If your workers don't expect you to listen to them, they may not share a concern or a potential hazard they see with you. That can put the entire team at risk. 

Asking questions is a great way to understand where your worker's mind is and show that you care about their safety. See if your employees feel nervous about a task or may not have gotten enough sleep the night before. These are common experiences that can lead to workplace accidents, so listening to your team can foster a safer work zone.

Keeping Proudly Essential Pros Safe

Work Zone Awareness Week is an important reminder that our Proudly Essential Pros deserve a safe, productive work environment. However, it's easy to overlook the impact jobsite communication has on the safety of our pros.

Here at MORSCO, we know that work zone safety is a top priority for plumbing, HVAC, and waterworks professionals. Follow these jobsite safety tips to ensure your team members serve the community for years to come.