Improving Safety Communication for Industry 4.0 and Beyond

Several industries have transitioned into automating work processes, allowing for increased productivity, lower costs, and faster innovation cycles. However, even with the growing use of automation, we should still recognize how automated work impacts employees who interact with those technologies on a daily basis. “Analyzing Safety Communication in Industrial Contexts”, published in the Journal of Technical Writing and Communication by Dr. Claas Digmayer and Dr. Eva-Maria Jakobs, offers several insights that we can benefit from in regard to creating communications for different audiences. 

When one thinks of safety communication, images of bright yellow signs may come to mind, as well as text filled posters that include rules and work requirements. Dr. Digmayer and Dr. Jakobs’ article shined a light on the importance of how communication, and in particular safety communication, impacted workers. While workers handled automated machines and processes, they often filled out paper documents and other analog means of communication. Safety communication for these workers had not transitioned to the digital space that other technologies in their workplace had moved to. 

Placing an emphasis on digitizing communication and making it easier for workers to communicate with each other helped in making the workplace safer and more efficient. This is seen in other work environments that use digital means of communication, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, and other collaborative tools.

How can we as technical communicators apply these findings within our own workplaces? First, we can start with involving employees, technical communicators, and SMEs in the communication creation process. This collaboration can help create effective communication that targets specific needs and concerns that are most important to our audiences. In addition, recognizing the collective intelligence shared by employees will only strengthen communication created with them in mind. Second, just as companies have adapted to new technologies, so should we. Staying up to date with technologies and programs can keep communication innovative and current, saving money and time and demonstrating our ability to keep up with a constantly changing technology landscape. Third, emphasizing the use of multimedia to communicate with employees and audiences can help them be more receptive to information being shared, rather than having to rely on physical documents or signage. 

With these points in mind, technical communicators can focus on using or developing tools that allow for better communication to and between our audiences. In addition, collaborating with different key groups during the communication creation process can ensure the information provided is relevant and easy to read. This is critical to ensuring the audience understands what is being shared and most importantly, how it impacts them. 

Resources

Analyzing Safety Communication in Industrial Contexts, by Claas Digmayer and Eva-Maria Jakobs


Viewpoint Written by Talia Chavez, Texas State University

Edited by Elena Ofenstein, Texas State University


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