May 19

Not Another Safety Meeting!

Making Sense and Getting Results out of Safety Meetings

“I have heard many sermons,” a man once said about attending church, “and I have even listened to a few!” While this may or may not hold true for church, it certainly holds true for safety meetings. I have witnessed it time after time; our workers drag themselves into the weekly safety meeting, sit in the same place, hear the same person talk on a topic, then go to work. All the while, the Manager is looking on wondering what return she is getting for the investment. Our people may be listening, but more times than not, they do not hear!

‘Safety Meetings’ are as traditional as incident reviews, OSHA, Safety Committees, Safety Rule books and posters! Safety meetings are one of the foundational elements to a solid safety program. Weekly safety meetings have many purposes, all rolled into that 30-minute agenda. First, they are a communication tool, to discuss any changes or hazards needing ‘special attention.’ The time can be used for training, motivation, change management, fun and community. That’s what they were supposed to be, anyway. The problem is that over the last few decades, safety meetings have lost their edge. Meeting leaders are out of ideas. Meetings lack preparation, planning, and a clear agenda. Participants have disengaged. Meeting results have suffered—until now.

The following is a systematic approach to the weekly safety meeting. It’s is an outline for 52 safety meetings. This outline is designed to be a mix of solid safety rules and procedure, interaction, energy and upper management support and communication. Let’s get started! In the course of one year, 52 safety meetings, I would recommend:

16 Rules/Procedure Driven Training Sessions

“The training regime, however, were exhausting on every level of human effort, for both astronauts and their ground controllers,” writes Craig Nelson in his epic book called Rocket Men, the story of Apollo 11. “After learning the basics on a sim-flight that went smoothly, both sides were subsequently put through their paces with a series of problems like mechanical break down, conflicting data streams and all out system failures.” Nelson writes later in the book about simulation testing, “This process worked so well, in fact, that in time many astronauts would calm themselves in real work crisis by thinking, this is just like simulation.” Because of their training, they had great confidence!

If seems only ‘right’ that the majority, 16, of the weekly safety meetings would be spent on mitigating hazards through training procedures—the things that matter most. Holding training or safety rule reviews in weekly meetings is not intended to replace current training schedules or modules. Instead, holding refresher training during these weekly meetings will raise awareness on key hazards moments before your people begin their work for the day. The real question is, are we training to ‘check the box’ and comply with some annual federal requirement or do we train like the astronauts of Apollo 11, as if our lives depend on it! Here are some ideas to raise the urgency and engagement around training. Have an employee share a personal story of an injury or near miss as an introduction to the training. Simulate situations, just like the astronaut’s by shifting training from sit and listen to get up and do. Have your employees add ‘system failures’ to training and discuss how they would work around them safely. Test for comprehension, holding employees accountable for test scores. Be prepared and be original.

12 Heart to Head Involved Safety Meeting Activities

Over the last two decades, Duke University Men’s Basketball team has had as much success, if not more, than any other team in all of sports. To find the secrets to their success, one has to look no further than their Coach Mike Krzyzewski. Given the fact Coach Krzyzewski mentors and coaches 18 to 22 year old men, how many team rules do you think he has? Probably at least 25? Maybe more than 100? No, Coach Krzyzewski has one team rule, “Don’t do something detrimental to yourself.” In hurting yourself you are hurting the team and the school too.

We traditionally solve organizational problems with a new rule. In fact, the commonly used tools for our employees are rules, strategies, policies, structures, procedures, monitory awards and discipline. These techniques are the outside-in approach and they yield very limited results. If lasting success and sustainable results are the goal, organizations must first go to the heart before engaging the ‘head’. The heart deals with beliefs, habits, energy, passion, personal commitment, and personal goals. When the heart is engaged, results will follow! Or as Coach Krzyzewski says, “Don’t do something detrimental to yourself!”

To be successful with ‘Heart to Head’ interaction, invest in some resources such as ISMA (Involved Safety Meeting Activities)-101 Ways to Get Your People Involved. Or search the internet with key words, ‘games trainers play.’ Once you have ideas, be prepared. Match meeting themes to seasons. Remember, the key is to get people thinking about what matters most, and then get them involved, have fun and allow them to share.

12 Outside Speakers

Several years ago when I was working as a safety professional for a utility company, I served most of out-state Missouri. Within my territory was one work location in a town with the population of just over 60,000. The supervisor, who organized the safety meetings, had a goal to bring in one outside speaker per month. He defined an outside speaker as someone outside of the immediate work group. The speaker could be from another part of the company or from outside the company altogether. I first thought this was a lofty goal, one that couldn’t be met. Yet, year after year, I saw outside speakers come to safety meetings, one per month. I saw conservation agents, doctors, police chiefs, local coaches, eagle scouts, OSHA reps., managers from other plants, safety professionals from other companies, industry experts, etc. What I really saw were results!

The bottom line is his people listened to these outside speakers. They were new, different, fresh, entertaining and had a story to tell that no one had heard. They key is to organize a small sub-committee for outside speakers. Brainstorm a list of potential candidates. Guide and coach the speaker about what you do and how he/she can help with your overall safety efforts. Tie the outside speaker’s message back to your hazards and your safety. And…get results!

2 Professional Speakers

Why wouldn’t we, twice a year, bring in a professional speaker to make our people laugh, cry, interact and learn more about critical concepts such as team building, leadership, accountability, responsibility? One word cost! But let’s really look at cost.

Let’s say for example, that your employees make 20.00 per hour (many trades and skilled craft are twice this amount) and the employees benefit package is another $20.00 per hour. Then it costs you $20.00 per employee for a half hour safety meeting. But wait, production, tools, materials and overhead are often at least a 5:1 ratio of salary. So, when adding that, it costs you $100.00 per employee for every half hour safety meeting! But wait one more minute, Louis J. DiBerardinis in his book, Handbook of Occupational Safety and Health writes, “The average direct and indirect cost of an employee injury accident is $20,000. This translates into the company having to generate $200,000 in sales/services at a 10% profit margin, or $400,000 at a 5% profit margin, to pay for a $20,000 accident.”

In short, the cost of a professional speaker is pennies compared to the cost of a weekly safety meeting and/or injury—the real question is, can you afford not to? When looking at professional speakers get a short list of potential speakers then request a presentation package from each. Check references. Expect a presentation outline from the speaker so that the speakers message is consistent with your objectives. Finally, work with the speaker to identify key themes, tools and catchphrases so that the momentum from the presentation will continue for weeks and months.

2 Appreciation Days

I have never received too many phone calls from my boss telling me that I am doing a great job! I am yet to talk to someone who tells me they are over appreciated at work or at home. Carve out two safety meetings a year to appreciate your work group. This can take many forms and you may want to consider a sub-committee who takes the lead to plan these meetings. Whether it is an end-of-the-day meeting with ice cream, a fun awards luncheon or pies in the manager’s face, appreciate your people!

4 Safety Updates and/or Incident Reviews

What is the most common injury on our property? What day of the week are we most likely to get hurt? Are more people injured before or after vacation? What were the key recommendations from the last near miss or incident summary? These are facts, figures and data on the desk of safety staff members and managers but it is all information that needs to be on the minds of our workers. Knowledge coupled with awareness is so very important and can lead to injury reduction. These safety meetings, once per quarter, are must-dos.

4 Upper Manger Reviews

It doesn’t matter where I am speaking, or to what industry, if I ask what is the biggest ‘knock’ against our upper management in terms of safety, the response is the same; lack of feedback and face time! To that end, plug your manager, vice president, or other senior leaders, into your safety meeting schedule on a quarterly basis. When these leaders are in front of your group, coach them to be vulnerable. Keith Ferrazzi, business leader & author, defines vulnerability as “The courage to reveal your inner thoughts, warts and all, to another person.” If your senior leaders can take that risk, around an incident in their garage, an experience with one of their children or an injury when they were younger, that will go a long way in creating the trust and credibility needed for long-term success.

Well, now you have it, 52 safety meetings—an outline for an entire year. Yes, it’s a lot to think about, a year of safety meetings, but remember you are not alone. In the coming weeks put together a sub-committees, as needed, to support this effort. Meet with your safety and training staff to discuss. Talk to your senior leadership about their role. Safety meetings are a foundational part of safety, but they don’t have to be ‘traditional.’ Remember, what you invest is what you will get back!

Matt Forck directs Safestrat, www.safestrat.com

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