Duty of care frequently wrongly fulfilled
Employers must provide good working and safety instructions. This is included in the Dutch Working Conditions Act and is an employer’s duty of care. Alas, there are still numerous examples of businesses which, while meeting their legal obligations, fail to fulfil these obligations as they should. This often happens not through unwillingness, but through ignorance: safety instructions prepared and implemented poorly do not work to safety’s benefit.
Businesses make crucial errors when preparing safety instructions. The primary errors made are that they do not designate the target groups explicitly, and in particular they overestimate the language level of the target groups. Also, safety instructions are often drafted and put up in workplaces where they are entirely superfluous. A language level that is too advanced or incomprehensible and an excess of unnecessary instructions are more likely to lead to unsafe than to safe situations.
At the right level
A good safety instruction is written at the right reading level of the target group, in clear, comprehensible language, and is specific and purposeful. Safety instructions should not be too long, either. The risk is then high that safety instructions are no longer understood, or that they are no longer followed. Practice teaches us that safety instructions longer than two or three pages miss their target altogether. For example, it is better to divide up the safety instructions for a machine into separate instructions appropriate to particular parts of the machine and their operation.
Society is made up of ever more different nationalities. This is reflected in the workplace and therefore on the content and form that safety instructions need to have. Issuing safety instructions only in Dutch does not work, for example, if a business has employees of four or five nationalities. Publishing only in English often does not work either, because it is not safe to assume that everyone can read and understand English. Providing safety instructions in all the employees’ mother tongues is equally far from the ideal solution.
An effective universal language in safety instructions is pictorial language. The use of illustrations, photos and pictograms can significantly improve clarity, effectiveness and comprehensibility. It is important here that the pictorial material used is understandable and unambiguous. When this is achieved, studies have shown that safety instructions are understood quickly, and are remembered and followed.
DCT is a specialist
The drafting of safety instructions must be done step by step and professionally, because safety instructions are of vital importance. It is therefore extremely important that safety instructions are prepared by specialists. DCT is the specialist which possesses all the knowledge and experience to draft safety instructions which achieve their purpose: to work safely and prevent accidents.