The importance of safety meetings

September 1, 2005 By    

The question of how often to have scheduled safety meetings can be the bane of propane management.

 Jay Johnston
Jay Johnston

One manager laments, “Why do we have to talk about safety and all the bad things that can happen? It just brings up the negative, eats into productivity and to be honest, I hate spending time on it as much as employees hate to hear it.”

To this manager, having one safety meeting a month is too often. Which begs the question; how often is often enough?

First, we have to define the difference between safety training and safety meetings.

Safety training is usually formal with set agendas, goals and objectives, such as CETP, HM 126, and OQ training, or motivational in nature in support of these objectives. Much of this is mandated by some authority, be it state licensing, certification, DOT or insurance carrier requisites.

Safety meetings, however, are brief 15-minute opportunities for managers or supervisors to discuss day-to-day hazards, use of equipment, unsafe acts, unsafe conditions, recent incidents or near misses and to underline or review company policy or new safety rules.

Ideally, these meetings should be conducted weekly. However, most companies conduct monthly safety meetings and extend them to 30-minutes. One reason for this can be the amount of time spent in safety training. For example, an employee who just completed three or four days of CETP training may not benefit from a safety meeting that month.

Safety communication must be consistent and inclusive of all employees to be effective. Just because Joe and Bill attended CETP this month is not a good reason for the rest of your employees to miss a weekly or monthly meeting.

I always recommend that office employees be included in safety meetings, because when that leak call comes in, that employee could be the most important person in your company.

Still, many managers would scream like a fighting raccoon if they had to conduct weekly safety meetings. These managers can benefit by learning communication skills that will enable them to successfully lead such meetings.

Some managers are just uncomfortable with giving a safety talk. The fear of not being perfect might be getting in the way of important safety communication.

At the same time, employees usually view a safety meeting in the same light as going to the dentist. Who can blame employees for wanting to avoid attending meetings run by people who’d rather not hold them?

This is where upper management needs to support managers and supervisors by providing training on how to conduct a safety meeting. Some managers might benefit from a course in public speaking or joining a toastmasters group.

I view manager training on how to conduct safety meetings to be as important as the CETP training provided to operations employees. In order to be effective, managers must have the tools to succeed.

In my work, I train managers by suggesting topics and meeting ideas that make the process relevant, interesting and fun. Here are a few thoughts:

  • Hold meetings in a quiet place with limited distractions.
  • Use newsletters, articles, case studies and near misses to create topics.
  • Start the meeting by telling employees why they are there. Define the topic and it’s relation to safety, accident prevention and company policy.
  • When presenting the topic – keep it short (15 minutes), positive and fun.
  • Allow time for, encourage and reward questions – such feedback is essential.
  • End the meeting by thanking employees, congratulating them on accident free productivity and make sure they sign the attendance sheet.

Whether you hold weekly, biweekly or monthly safety meetings, present one topic clearly and simply. Remember the difference between safety training and safety meetings.

Never forget your role as a manager in preventing injuries, protecting employees, protecting customers and protecting the bottom line.

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