Many waste companies and municipal sanitation departments conduct safety meetings for their employees on a regular basis. Certainly, spending the time and financial resources to have such meetings does demonstrate management’s commitment to safety. But the question remains: Just how effective are they? Have they become just another perfunctory meeting that often devolves into little more than a gripe session? Or are these meetings an integral part of a successful program to reduce injuries and accidents?
The following tips can make your safety meetings more effective:
Have clear objectives. No one benefits from attending a meeting where the presenter is just “winging it.” The topics to be covered during the meeting should be decided upon well in advance, which will allow the presenter time to conduct research and gather support materials. A well-prepared presenter with a specific agenda of discussion items is the best way to ensure that goals and objectives of the meeting are met.
Keep it short. Most organizations try to keep their safety meetings between 15 and 30 minutes. After 30 minutes the attention of many of the workers may start to fade. Limit the number of topics on the agenda to fit within the allotted time, allowing time for discussion and questions. If a new topic comes up as a result of the discussion and cannot be fully addressed within the allotted time, then the presenter should table the topic for the next meeting, which will also allow the presenter time to research the issue.
Make it visual. A commonly accepted statistic is that 65 percent of all people are visual learners. Thus, using visual aids such as photos, diagrams or videos can ease understanding of the topics. If the topic of the meeting involves tangible objects such as personal protective equipment (PPE), then have these items available for attendees to see and touch. Concluding the meeting with a handout that recaps important points can help improve retention of the material.
Mix it up. Don’t allow meetings to become boring by always doing the same thing. Consider, for instance, alternating a safety video, an oral presentation with photos, and a guest speaker. Additionally, some meetings are better when they are conducted outside of the training room. For example, a safety meeting on pre-trip inspections would be far more interesting and effective if it was conducted in the yard using actual waste trucks.
Keep it relevant. The more workers feel that a particular safety topic affects them, the more likely they are to pay attention. Employ examples of specific accidents or injuries that have occurred at your company or in your department and relate those examples to the topic being discussed. A simple Internet search can turn up plenty of relevant examples of tragic accidents in the waste industry to illustrate a specific safety topic.
Encourage discussion. Safety meetings should not be a one-way street. The workers are the ones out on the front line every day, and they often have insight into safety issues that safety manager or supervisors may not. While the discussion needs to be managed, all employees should know that their input is important when it comes to safety. Sometimes a fellow employee speaking on how to perform a task safely can be far more persuasive to other employees than lectures from a supervisor or safety manager.
Safety meetings can be an important part of an organization’s overall safety program. Typically, the more effort an organization puts into these meetings, the more results they can expect. As with all safety efforts, every safety meeting should be documented with a list of topics discussed and the names of the employees who attended.