Effective Listening for Safety Professionals

Effective Listening for Safety Professionals

By the late George Robotham



Effective listening for Safety Professionals

The OHS professional attends many meetings, facilitates a lot of learning and generally converses with a lot of people, often what is not said is as important as what is said. Being a good reader of body language is essential to get to the core of meaning. Effective listening is a vital skill.

Effective communication exists between 2 people when the process of interpreting and understanding the sender’s message is the same way the sender intended it.

Sources of difficulty by the sender-

Too low to be heard

Accent obscures clarity

Forgetting the purpose

Body language contradicts the verbal message

Sources of difficulty by the listener

Being pre-occupied

Listening mainly for an opening to get the floor

Letting your personal beliefs interfere with the message

Judging the speaker

Not asking for clarification

The 2 best types of listening are-


You are genuinely interested in the communication, try hard to understand and actively listen.


You re-state or paraphrase the message as you understand it and reflect back for verification and amplification. Reflective listening is a core counselling technique.

George Robotham

George Robotham

George was a Legend in the Safety World who passed away in Sept 2013 but left us with a great legacy
George Robotham
I have worked in OHS for most of my working life, many years in the mining industry including over 10 years in a corporate OHS role with BHP. Since leaving the mining industry I have worked in a variety of safety roles with a variety of employers, large & small, in a variety of industries. I was associated with my first workplace fatality at age 21, the girl involved was young, intelligent, vivacious and friendly. Such a waste! I was the first on the scene and tried to comfort her and tend to her injuries. She said to me “George, please do not let me die” We put her on the aerial ambulance to Rockhampton base hospital where she died the next day. I do not mind telling you that knocked me around for awhile. Since then I have helped my employers cope with the aftermath of 12 fatalities and 2 other life-altering events. The section "Why do Occupational Health & Safety" provides further detail but in summary, poor safety is simply very expensive and also has a massive humanitarian cost. My qualifications include a certificate I.V. in Workplace Training and Assessment, a Diploma in Frontline Management, a Diploma in Training & Assessment Systems, a Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education) , a Grad. Cert. in Management of Organisational Change and a Graduate Diploma in Occupational Hazard Management. I am currently studying towards a Masters in Business Leadership. Up until recently I had been a Chartered Fellow of the Safety Institute of Australia for 10 years and a member for about 30 years. My interest is in non-traditional methods of driving organisational change in OHS and I have what I believe is a healthy dis-respect for many common approaches to OHS Management and OHS Training. I hold what I believe is a well-founded perception that many of the things safety people and management do in safety are “displacement activities” (Displacement activities are things we do, things we put a lot of energy into, but which when we examine them closely there is no valid reason for doing them). My managerial and leadership roles in OHS have exposed me to a range of management techniques that are relevant to Business Improvement. In particular I am a strong supporter of continuous improvement and quality management approaches to business. I believe leadership is the often forgotten key to excellence in most aspects of life. I hold the Australian Defence Medal and am a J.P.(Qualified). I have many fond memories of my time playing Rugby Union when I was a young bloke.

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