Originally posted on Caterpillar Safety Service’s Safety Culture WORLD blog http://safetycultureworld.blogspot.com/ and reposted here with Caterpillar’s permission.

You probably have heard a saying that goes something like “If you are safe, it is not by accident.” 

The world of inspirational posters continues to be an industry that papers our facility walls with good looking, feel good platitudes that have no real, positive impact on safety.

I wonder how many responses this blog site would get if you in the readership were asked to send in your favorite safety slogan? 

Do our people who are most at risk really ever get impacted by safety posters, or bulletin board notices, or email blasts? I honestly don’t think so. We all live in a media intensive, social network world that has taught us how to quickly ignore messaging that is generic.

This brings to mind a comment from my brother-in-law Tom who retired from the Air Force after a couple of decades as a navigator in various fighters and bombers. I used to get frustrated trying to talk to Tom and getting no response. One day I asked him how he could concentrate so completely on what he was doing and thereby totally ignore outside input.

Tom’s answer made a lot of sense. “In the high intensity, high speed, high risk combat theatre around Vietnam the radio traffic was non-stop and we all quickly learned to ignore any and all airwave communications that did not have our personal call sign as a part of it.”

And now we pretty much all live in this world where the battle is for our personal attention. Posters, emails, bulletin board notices, etc., are just background noise to our workforce.

Personal one-on-one genuine communication gets our attention and that of our at-risk employees. The rest is NVA (non-value-added drivel).

I am now committed to the catch phrase that sounds something like “I can’t trite.” Save your company’s poster budget and invest in being genuine by talking to your people.

The Doc