By Dana P Skopal, PhD
At work we often need to rewrite material content for different purposes – an example is workplace safety procedures. Workplace safety is set in law, which management need to rewrite as a workable document to inform staff.
Each organisation will need a workplace safety policy, which then needs to be reformulated into practical procedures for staff to follow. This is often a task that your employees may well want to ignore (both the writing and reading of), but as an employer you are responsible for complying with the legislation and for keeping your staff safe.
Many organisations have separate policies and procedures, which can be an effective way to break up messages. A clear policy document enables management to set the ‘rules’ relating to regulations and monitor compliance issues, while a good set of practical procedures enables staff to understand the necessary steps. Staff may also respond to a one page list of key points, which can be conveyed using document design (such as good flow charts with fun images).
When writing a procedure, it is important to not follow the legalese and often confusing wording of the regulations. Writing involves planning, and one effective process is to simply list the five or six key points that staff must know. Plan these key points without looking at the original text, as that way you can clearly explain the information as if you were talking face-to-face.
As a workplace writer, aim to:
- clarify the purpose of the document (to inform or to analyse all the risks?)
- understand the readers’ requirements (who is the final reader?)
- agree what key information goes first (are you persuading / what is most important?)
- agree on the tone (yes, how does it sound? formal/ technical?)
- edit to make the message clear, particularly so a reader knows what they need to do (and use document design).
This way you make the requirements clear and staff can understand the important regulations. Don’t fall into the trap of copying or paraphrasing the long-winded explanations from the regulations.