Drive-By Safety Meetings Must Stop

Are you asking your safety meeting attendees to be participants or spectators?

drive-by safety meetings must stop by kevin burns safety speaker

Drive-by safety meetings are a waste of time and energy and should be considered an insult by meeting attendees. Those who have been forced to sit through drive-by safety meetings dread them and will find an excuse to get out of attending them. Those who bother to show up are likely the ones who couldn't find an excuse. But when they get there, they are not planning on remembering anything, writing anything down or being held to any sort of accountability standard to be able to recall the information later. In other words, meeting attendees are simply driving by.

You may be forcing your people to show up at safety meetings and sit through them. But you are not requiring them to take an active role in participating, taking notes or asking any questions. Drive-by safety meetings are tolerated lectures more than meetings - but lectures where the attendees are not required to recall any of the information later.

I’ll bet you thought drive-by meetings had something to do with using a lot of bullets in PowerPoint slides didn’t you? Well, lots of bullets don’t help either.

Ask Them To Do Something With The Information

Are you asking your safety meeting attendees to be participants or spectators? Just because the bodies show up at the safety meeting doesn’t mean that their minds do. You’re not asking them to do anything except sit there and listen. They’re just driving by and you’re throwing stuff at the car hoping something lands inside any open window.

When you don’t ask your people to participate in safety meetings, to do anything with the information you are giving them, you are creating safety meeting apathy. So ask yourself:

  1. What specifically would you like your people to do at the safety meeting?
  2. How would you like them to engage and participate?
  3. What would you like them to do with the information from the safety meeting?

A Lot Of Money Spent To Have Nothing Done

It should embarrass any safety manager to walk into a safety meeting at a professional conference center where thousands of dollars have been spent on the conference center meeting room (see my post Why Safety Meetings Must Move Out Of Back Shops), the Audio-Visual equipment, the sound system, staging and lighting, catering of lunches, coffee and snacks and not to mention the presenters who have invested hours into pulling together high-quality learning sessions. But then, no one bothered to put any paper or pens on the tables for people to take notes. Attendees are not encouraged to remember anything.

They don’t have to ask or answer any questions. They don’t have to take notes or be able to recall anything they learned. All they are required to do is to sit quietly, drink their coffees and eat their lunches and maybe occasionally give a smattering of applause. If you don’t ask your people to participate, to write anything down, to commit it to memory through the process of note-taking, they won’t remember it. It will be business as usual tomorrow.

Why Take Notes?

Researchers (Howe, 1970) found that information not found in notes had a dismal 5% chance of being remembered. People who don’t take notes, forget 95% of what they are told. So, by all means, have your presenters prepare to have 95% of their preparation be tossed in the trash can before your attendees leave the meeting - only because you didn’t ask your attendees to do anything with the information.

When you don't ask your people to take notes, you send a message that none of it is worth remembering. You are wasting the presenters’ time as well as the attendees’ time. You organized all of it for nothing. And your people are just driving by your meetings.

Toolbox, tailgate, stand-down, safety day or safety awards banquet, all must have a purpose and a reason. You must ask them to write down what was talked about, what was presented. Do not allow anyone to skate through the safety meetings without being engaged. Something as simple as paper and pens on every table and every once in while saying, “I want you to write this down” engages. Ask them to take notes. They will.

I've been speaking at meetings big and small for seventeen years. Why not lean on what I've learned over that time to help you engage your people in safety at your next safety meeting? I can help you build a better safety meeting and I can also provide an outstanding keynote presentation on safety attitude at the same meeting.

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Topics: safety attitude, safety meeting, safety stand-down, safety, safety apathy