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Enhancing HSE Communications: Lessons "From Made to Stick"

Updated: Dec 16, 2023

As an HSE Consultant in the oil and gas sector, I constantly explore ways to make safety messages more impactful and memorable. The principles outlined in "Made to Stick" by Chip and Dan Heath offer valuable insights into achieving this. The book uses an interesting analogy, comparing the silence of wisdom to the utility of duct tape, to illustrate how to make ideas resonate.


Applying the SUCCESS Model to HSE Messaging

  1. Simplicity: In the context of HSE, simplicity is key. Our safety messages should be concise and straightforward, focusing on the most critical aspects of personal safety. This prevents information overload and ensures that the core message is clearly understood.

  2. Unexpectedness: To grab attention in the busy environment of oil and gas operations, messages should contain elements of surprise or intrigue. This could mean using startling facts or challenging questions to make the audience think.

  3. Concreteness: HSE communications need to be grounded in reality. Concrete messages based on real-world scenarios or data resonate more effectively with the workforce than abstract concepts.

  4. Credibility: Trust is crucial. Safety messages must align with the organization's values and practices to be credible and trustworthy.

  5. Emotional Appeal: Emotional connection enhances message retention. Sharing personal stories or showing the human impact of safety practices can create a deeper engagement with the message.

  6. Stories: Stories and analogies are powerful tools. They transform mundane safety protocols into engaging narratives that are more likely to be remembered and acted upon.


Effective Communication Strategies in HSE

  • Personal Relevance: Tailoring messages to individual experiences makes them more relevant and meaningful.

  • Clarity in Planning: When developing a communication plan, clarity in the project's purpose, scope, and intent is crucial. Use existing templates and continuously evaluate the plan’s effectiveness.

  • Reinforcement Systems: To counteract the natural decline in attention post-training, establish systems that reinforce key messages and sustain engagement.

  • Consistency and Positivity: Avoid conflicting information and focus on positive, transformational messages. Emphasize what should be done, rather than just what to avoid.

  • Leading by Example: As HSE professionals, our behavior and attitude towards safety set a precedent. Sharing effective communication strategies with colleagues, family, and friends can help foster a safer environment for all.


In summary, applying "Made to Stick" principles to our HSE communications in the oil and gas industry can significantly enhance their effectiveness. We can create safety messages that truly resonate with our audience by focusing on simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotional appeal, and storytelling. As HSE professionals, our goal is not just to inform but to inspire a culture of safety that extends beyond the workplace.

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