Throwing together a safety meeting at the last minute does not inspire confidence or preparedness.
Safety Managers stress about organizing safety meetings and annual stand-downs. They struggle with the organizational aspect and so they end up leaving much of it to the last minute, scrambling just enough to pull something off that looks like there may have been a rudimentary amount of thought put into the meeting.
Safety managers put off organizing safety meetings like department managers put off the Annual Performance Review. Oh, they know it's coming but anything else seems more important.
On meeting day, mixed messages, bad PowerPoint, technology issues and an assortment of sessions with no connected theme all point to a lack of preparedness. More thought and organization seems to go into the meeting venue, food and coffee and the giveaways (if any) at the end of the meeting than on what will be discussed in the meeting.
Even The Boy Scouts Know This
The purpose of safety is to be prepared. Yet the safety meeting itself does not meet those same standards:
- Chairpersons reading off documents seen for the first time because they haven’t bothered to prepare themselves properly
- Eleven bullet points per page on slides in font-size so small, the presenter can’t see it themselves
- Padding presentations with gruesome photos and Internet videos because the presenter was given an hour to fill but only has 20 minutes worth of material
- Waiting until just a few days out from the meeting to begin assembling some sort of meeting agenda so you can fulfill the legal requirement
You Must Inspire Confidence
Throwing together a safety meeting at the last minute does not inspire confidence or preparedness. Nor does boring them, scolding them or showing them gruesome photos of dismembered bodies. Preparedness is not on display when you read every single word of your slides as your safety presentation (Corporate Karaoke). Your people certainly do not feel prepared and equipped to meet the challenges of the day by taking the majority of meeting time to monotonously point out the glaring errors of your recent inspections or incidents.
No, you do all of these things by choice.
If it were an employee displaying a lack of preparedness, it would be addressed. Well, in the same way you expect your people to raise their game in safety, you must raise yours. Employees take their cues not from what you say in safety meetings, but from what you do. It's the one time they can all witness you doing your job and will pass judgment as to how well you do your job.
Be The Example Of Better
If you want your people to get better at safety, to engage better in safety and look out for the wellbeing of their fellow workers in safety then you’ve got to show them what better looks like. After all, if you keep doing what you’ve always done (running your meetings the same way), you’re going to keep on getting what you’ve always gotten (safety performance will not improve).
Safety culture is not created in safety meetings - it is reinforced. Whatever safety practices you use gets amplified at safety meetings. Hastily put-together agendas, last-minute phone calls to presenters to fill time and shooing a few people to the Tim Hortons to bring back donuts and coffee because you forgot to make arrangements for it doesn't make it look like you're prepared. Employees who show up without any intention of learning or remembering, who sit in groups at the back of the room talking among themselves while presenters try to ignore them only furthers the divide between employees and safety.
Employees feel cheated having to sit through thrown-together, last-minute presentations of barely relatable information while they are scolded or scared into compliance. You as a safety manager, adviser or supervisor need to get down to what matters in safety meetings: talking with your people - not at them.
Encourage, Inspire And Motivate In Safety
It’s a meeting - not a one-way broadcast. The safety meeting is about making sure your people get the encouragement, inspiration and motivation they need to help them make the decision to embrace safety, to buy-in to it, and to want to choose safety on the job.
After all, your people are not unlike you. They prefer a pat on the back over a scolding or a data dump. They just want their participation to mean something.
Make your safety meetings a celebration of safety. Change the perception from being forced to attend to wanting to attend. It takes some work but it's worth it when it delivers employee buy-in.
If you haven't started planning for your Winter Stand-downs, it's time you got started. Let me help you build an excellent stand-down. I would be honored to be your closing keynote speaker.