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School of Business | Department of Management Studies | MSc program in Corporate Communication | 2015
Thesis number: 14247
The role of internal corporate communication in supporting better workplace safety. Case: SSAB
Author: Pirnes, Anitta
Title: The role of internal corporate communication in supporting better workplace safety. Case: SSAB
Year: 2015  Language: eng
Department: Department of Management Studies
Academic subject: MSc program in Corporate Communication
Index terms: viestintä; communication; yritysviestintä; business communication; työ; work; hyvinvointi; well-being; turvallisuus; security; työturvallisuus; industrial safety
Pages: 125
Full text:
» hse_ethesis_14247.pdf pdf  size:2 MB (1510052)
Key terms: internal communication; internal corporate communication; corporate communication function; workplace safety communication; workplace safety management; roles of communication professionals; safety climate
Objective of the study: The objective of this study was to contribute to a better understanding of the role of communication in supporting management's work in improving workplace safety in the case organization, a Nordic and US-based steel company. The overall purpose was to find out what the role of internal corporate communication is in supporting workplace safety in practical terms and whether the role is wider than that shown in previous studies on workplace safety. To be able to understand the issue of workplace safety in this context, this study utilized a theoretical framework built on corporate communication as a management function (Cornelissen, 2011), an internal corporate communication concept (Welch & Jackson, 2006), a typology of the roles of communication professionals (Broom & Smith, 1979), management practices in safety work (Vredenburgh, 2002) and safety climate as part of organizational climate (Neal & al., 2000).

Research method. Research method was a single-case study using multiple sources. The primary data source was qualitative, semi-structured interviews with the management, safety experts and communication professionals of the case company. Altogether 12 interviews were conducted in April and May 2015. Other data sources included archival records and administrative documents.

Findings and conclusions: The findings of this study suggest that communication can have a wider role in supporting workplace safety than that suggested in previous studies. Three roles for communication were recognized based on the study: informative role, consultative role and influential role. Communication can also have an umbrella role, which means overall integrated communication. The roles were interconnected and thus any one role alone is not able to adequately support workplace safety. The roles seemed to be also linked to the safety climate, i.e. how the importance of workplace safety is perceived and made sense of at the organization. Based on this study, communication can have different roles based on the current state of safety climate.

Managerial implications: Based on the findings of this study, it is recommended that the case organization broadens the role of the internal corporate communication function from an informative role (which is now clearly the dominant one) to consultative and informational roles. For further studies, ascertaining the perceptions and views of the employees is recommended, since involving employees is an important part of safety management. To help the case organization to evaluate and plan internal workplace safety communication, two practical tools are being offered: 1) a general tool in analyzing and planning goals, roles of communication in connection to roles of management and content and channels of communication 2) a detailed tool linking the safety climate and roles of communication to the suggested communication activities.
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