Nonverbal Communication and Your Safety Message

By Randy Logsdon

I'm fairly certain that I am not the first or even the last person who has succumbed to the phenomenon of drifting thoughts during a church service. On this particular Sunday, I was intrigued by the choir. In particular, I was caught up in the animated gestures of the choir director. Of course as a safety professional, my thoughts drifted toward application in safety rather than some other less constructive vein.

The anthem, early in the service required a variety of vocal effects from the choir – loud, soft, fast, slow, with punctuation of certain notes while others were feathered out for effect. The piece was presented with perfection. My attention was drawn to the choir director's nonverbal gestures. Having participated (many years ago) in high school chorus, I was able to follow and understand many of the instructions being given to the choir and therefore was impressed with the skill and success of the director's work.

My thoughts drifted more deeply. Parallels could be drawn to teamwork and other leadership attributes. But my impression was the masterful application of nonverbal communication. “Wow,” I thought, “this choir is responding with precision to each and every hand and facial gesture.” Still deeper, I thought how gestures could be applied to improving the safety message.

So let’s consider how powerful nonverbal communication can be in your aggregates-plant safety message. I'm not suggesting that we enlist the services of a fine music conservatory in this goal. I am suggesting that our safety message may be clarified and improved with attention to and application of effective nonverbal cues.

One of today’s greatest research sources is the internet, so I Googled "nonverbal" and found an informative quick reference on the subject ( Here's some food for thought.
Nonverbal communication cues can affect the conversation in five ways; some are positive and others are negative.
The online article continued to briefly describe some of the common types of nonverbal communication.
The subject of nonverbal communication is immense and this column has only just touched the surface. Experts will tell you that the nonverbal aspects of communication are just as important (if not more important) than the verbal message.

Study the techniques of the presenters at the next conference, safety meeting, lecture, or even, the next church service you attend. Consider your body language and that of your partner in a one-on-one conversation. Study the nonverbal techniques that seem to be effective. Which ones have a positive effect? Which have a negative effect? Which techniques can you adopt to reinforce your safety message? E