When people engage in these four things at your safety meeting, they will buy-in to safety.
Safety meetings started out as a legal requirement. You had to have them, they had to be recorded and the subject matter had to satisfy the Code. But nowhere does it state that you can’t add items to the safety meeting or that you can’t have fun and to speak-up in the meetings.
Companies buy templates for their safety meetings that are white-bread and innocuous because they’ve been dumbed-down to appeal to as many industries as possible. But generic safety meetings that talk about safety reports, inspections, incident reports, processes, procedures and protocols while numbing the mind with text-laden PowerPoint slides don’t build safety buy-in.
Employees don’t buy-in to the safety program because it is presented as a set of rules and policies. Employees resist anyone who appears to want to force them to comply. And it's tough for employees to warm up to someone who incessantly talks about procedures, processes, inspections and incidents. (Sure, it's important but not engaging in a conversational way). When your safety meetings are a re-hash of everything they've already heard on PPE, driving, lockouts and slips-trips-falls, you're going to lose their attention - and desire to want to warm up to safety.
It's one thing to tell them about rules. It's quite another to help them develop their performance within the rules. To help build better safety performers, you have to help your people to improve overall, not just on how much they can know the rules. Your safety meetings should be the first place you start to change the conversations in safety.
To change the perception about safety, you must change the conversations. Here are 4 things you must begin to talk about in safety meetings:
1Accountability - every worker has an obligation to be responsible for his/her actions. Getting your people to move from tolerating rules to an “I got this” ownership mindset doesn’t happen without accountability. Accountability does not involve blame. Finding someone else to blame for an incident or action means that you don’t embrace accountability as a personal value. “I could have done more” is easier to forgive than trying to one-up allegations of blame and finger-pointing. Get the accountability piece working in your safety meetings and you’re ready to move on to …
2Teamwork - good, solidly-performing teams compensate for each other. Find a player out of position on a sports team and you’ll find someone else willing to momentarily jump in and fill that spot until the original player can get back into position. Good teams know when a fellow player is out of position, needs some back-up, needs to get their head back in the game or maybe needs a time-out. And good teams make it happen. If possible, get your people working in small crews where, over time, they get to know each other’s moves, their habits and their strengths. Also, they find a way to compensate for weaknesses. Small crews have less tendency to turn over staff than large crews. It’s comforting to know your crew-mates have your back. When that happens, your crew will demonstrate …
3Respect - although self-respect is the cornerstone of any safe workplace, it isn’t all of it. Respect for your teammates is equally as important as respect for yourself. You cannot give that which you do not own. So if you have no self-respect, you can not give respect to others. A workplace lacking in respect is a dangerous workplace. When you demonstrate respect, you demonstrate caring. It is so much easier to demonstrate respect for people you care about than people you don’t. That’s why solid-performing teams have a healthy respect for each other as both workmates and people. When you respect the people you work with and care about them as people, it is easy to demonstrate …
4Courtesy - is a major contributor to any good safety and environmental program and what drives positive actions on the job site. Courtesy is the preventative measure - the thing you do without being told. Courtesy is demonstrated in sharing the road with other drivers, in the parking lot by parking unselfishly, in the lunch room by cleaning up after yourself, and on the job site by not being a nuisance or distraction. Never is courtesy the reason that someone gets hurt. One of the best ways to demonstrate courtesy is by speaking up on the job site and in safety meetings.
When people become accountable for their actions, when they feel that they are a valuable part of a safety team, when they are willing to demonstrate respect and courtesy in their actions, they will be more than willing to be vocal in safety - especially in safety meetings. When people engage in the safety meeting, they buy-in to safety.
One way to bring a new flavor to your safety meetings is by bringing in a safety speaker. Nothing gets attention and a re-focus on safety like someone new. I’d be honored to be considered for your next safety event.
And don't forget, there are two full chapters on better safety meetings in my book, PeopleWork: The Human Touch in Workplace Safety.