How To Create Incredible Employee Focus In Safety

How do you get employees to find their focus in safety when some show up at work in the morning barely a degree or two above comatose?

kevin burns on trigger words and safety focus

It started on a conference call with my client's Safety Day organizing committee. They had chosen me to be the closing keynote safety speaker for a series of safety meetings. We spent a considerable amount of time preparing for the event, reviewing and discussing the pages of responses to my pre-event questionnaire. It was during the discussions that one of the committee members made an off-handed comment that may just prove to be a great tool to get employees to buy-in to safety.

Get Them Into The Zone

You've seen athletes, eyes closed, head down, shifting their weight back and forth from one foot to the other while the national anthem plays: mentally getting into their zone. You've seen skiers waving their hands in front of their faces, closed-eyed, as they visualize each and every turn on the course. You've seen fighters, weightlifters, golfers and anyone whose success depends upon the moment get into their zone.

Wouldn't it be great to see that kind of mental preparation and focus from employees when it comes to workplace safety? But how do you get ordinary employees to get into their optimum performance zone in safety when some can barely get to work in the morning a degree or two above comatose?

Overcome The Zone-out Potential

Employees are quite capable of putting themselves on auto-pilot and still getting the job done. Repetition does that. But if it is possible for employees to zone-out for a moment, it should be just a possible to get them to zone-in for a moment.

Pull The Trigger

Every athlete has a trigger-word or phrase that creates an intensely focused moment allowing them to get into their high-performance zone. Salespeople use them too. Actors, musicians and entertainers all use triggers. Even safety speakers use them - well at least this one does.

Trigger-words bring people back to Earth in the here and now. It clears their heads of every distracting thought and gets them intensely focused on the task they are about to undertake. Imagine what would be possible in safety performance if you could get that kind of intense focus from each employee on safety for just a few seconds throughout each day.

Get Vocal - Call It Out

What if an employee was able to simply call out the words, "Safety Moment" in any moment of the day? Could you create a workplace culture to condition your people to repeat back that phrase in unison and to focus their immediate attention onto ensuring that their work area is both safe and secure?

Calling out "safety moment" would be especially powerful at the end of a coffee break or lunch break - as a tool to refocus away from social engagement and back onto safety - to get their heads back in the game.

"Safety Moment" is a simple trigger phrase that pulls all the attention away from any distractions and immediately focuses attention in the here and now. Every employee, upon hearing that phrase, would take ten seconds to assess their immediate surroundings and to determine their own personal safety, the safety of the person next to them, note potential areas of concern and to either acknowledge their affirmative safety or address areas of concern - both out loud.

The Long-Term Effects Of Triggers

Over time, as employees' exposure to the phrase increases and it becomes more deeply ingrained and habitual, workers would begin to hear the phrase even when it's not being spoken. It would cause them to assess their safety outside of the workplace, and it would eventually seep its way into empowering their families with the same phrase: Safety Moment.

Imagine the voice of a six year-old from the back seat just before backing out of the driveway saying, "Dad, safety moment." How would you not assess your current safety in that moment, do your checks and offer back, "safety secure Buddy - thanks."

The success of any safety program is not determined by just measurements like LTI scores, but by the level of employee buy-in to safety and whether or not the safety strategies make it past the work site gates. Triggers work far more effectively than cutesy Dr. Suess safety rhymes.

I work with clients who want more than just simple compliance - those who care enough about their people to help them buy-in to safety as a personal value - that will keep their families safe too. If you want that for your people, call me and ask how I can help you make it happen.

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Topics: safety speaker, safety, engagement, safety buy-in, safety compliance