For people who are working in the chemical process business, there is always the question of adequate information for the safe conduct of a process. How does one fold new process safety details into an organizational structure so as to gain the greatest benefit?

One method is to simply issue memos and rely on management SOP’s for enforcement.  This kind of passive distribution of information must compete with all the other channels of information flowing into the brains of coworkers. Memos that are badly written or bursting with details are sure to be poorly absorbed. Eventually, people cannot reliably digest additional information on top of an already complex task.

The word that always comes up is “communication”. True enough, but too often communication comes in the form of training which consists of a PowerPoint recitation to a passive audience. This is not training- it is a briefing.

Communication often manifests as a memo or as a new folder on some disk drive. Again, this is a passive form of communication that does not necessarily engage the recipient.

I think that effective safety communication requires “management by walking around”. If safety information arises that is critical, then what better way than to walk around and collect disciples of safety? Mobility and strength of personality can be far more effective than even the best memo, SOP, or policy. 

Much of specialized expertise resolves to a finite number of rules and specialized awareness on top of a foundation of more generic knowledge.  Specialized expertise may be difficult to acquire, but in practice it is of finite scope. An engaging and ebullient manager can help people absorb complex information by breaking it down into a hierarchy of pieces and rules. The practice of filing information into a folder and relying on people to go out and look for it is a poor substitute for active engagement.

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