Creating “Awareness”

| August 4, 2009

One of the requirements of OHSAS 18001 is that procedures must be established to make workers aware of the following –

  • The occupational health and safety (OH&S) consequences of their work activities and behaviors
  • Their roles and responsibilities for following OH&S policies and procedures
  • The consequences of not following these policies and procedures

As anyone who has put together communication and training programs will tell you, trying to raise awareness can be a difficult undertaking.

Therefore, I was struck by an article in the August 2009 ABA Journal that discussed how a New York City ordinance for “raising awareness” to prevent obesity ended up the subject of a lawsuit.

In response to a report that showed that more than half of New York City adults were overweight, New York put in place a health code ordinance that required chain restaurants to post the calorie counts of the foods they served on menus and menu boards.  The New York State Restaurant Association sued to block this ordinance, claiming it either violated the restaurants rights to free speech or was preempted by federal law.  In early 2009, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals rejected both arguments.

What I found particularly interesting about this article was the discussion of the results of customer surveys that were conducted both before and after the legislation went into effect of individuals leaving fast-food restaurants. 

Prior to posting the information on menus, only 23% of the people surveyed said they saw calorie information.  This information was available on posters, food packaging and websites – but not on the menu.  Afterward, 60% of those surveyed reported seeing the calorie information. More importantly, one in four of those who noticed the information said it affected their purchases.

What is the lesson for OH&S management systems?

Programs to increase awareness can impact individual behavior; however, the awareness information must be provided in a way and at a time that it can be used effectively.

OH&S “awareness” information should not be buried in safety procedures, on web sites or in training materials. It needs to be made available when the associated work activities are actually being performed –

  • Embed it in your work instructions
  • Include it in forms that need to be completed anyway
  • Post it on signs in appropriate areas

If the information is important, make it available when it counts.

© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2009)

Category: Training & Communication

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