Misunderstood verbal communication can lead to a serious incident.

Risk Engineer and HSE expert, Jim Whiting, shared this report with us recently highlighting four incidents where breakdowns in positive communications were factors. In each circumstance, an operator proceeded into shared areas without making positive communication with another operator.

Read: Positive communication failures result in collisions.

Repeat-back (sometimes referred to as 3-way communication) can reinforce positive communication. This technique may be required by policy or procedure and reinforced during training on a task for better compliance.

Repeat-back is used to ensure the information shared during a work process is clear and complete. In the repeat back process, the sender initiates the communication using the receiver’s name, the receiver repeats the information back, and the sender acknowledges the accuracy of the repeat back or repeats the communication if it is not accurate.

There are many reasons why communications are misunderstood. Workers make assumptions about an unclear message based on their experiences or expectations. A sender may choose poor words for communication or deliver messages that are too long to remember. The message may not be delivered by the sender in the receiver’s primary language. A message delivered in the same language but by a worker from a different geographical region may be confusing because the words do not sound the same across regions.

Can you think of other reasons a repeat-back technique can be helpful? Please comment below.