How to Build Safety Operations Discussions

safety meeting engagementOne of the most common mistakes made in meetings that focus on operations, production and maintenance is to treat safety as an add-on to the meeting rather than including safety operations in that meeting.  Usually this means there’s time allotted for a “safety moment” some time during the meeting to talk about safety issues. [content_protector password=”meeting-operations” identifier=”meeting-operations”]

Now don’t get me wrong; a focus on safety is certainly a good thing.  The problem is, that approach tends to silo safety and reinforces the notion that safety is one thing and operations is something different.  Safety becomes something that’s bolted on to our operations discussions rather than something that’s built in to them.  So how do we move beyond the “safety moment” mindset?

Well, you’ll recall we talked about the importance of asking open-ended questions to make our safety meetings more engaging.  Here are three open-ended questions that you can use over and over again in any operations meeting, any pre-job meeting, tailgate meeting, toolbox meeting, safety huddle, or even a general or monthly safety meeting, that will get the conversation started, get engagement, and accomplish the goal of raising safety awareness in that meeting.

The first question we can ask is “Guys, what are we doing today?  Walk us through the tasks we need to accomplish today.”  This question is designed to get the ball rolling on what we’ll be doing operationally.  Brainstorm the broad job areas or tasks that people will be engaged in, and be sure to write them down for further reference.  If you have a whiteboard or flip chart handy, that’s even better.

Next, connect the dots between the tasks they’ll be doing and the risks those tasks might pose to them.  “John you mentioned you and your crew will be moving some scrap metal today.  What are some of the hazards we need to watch out for when we’re doing that?”

Be sure to write these down and be sure to engage the entire group not just the ones who’ll be doing that particular job.  Once they have identified the main hazards, then ask, “Guys what can we do today to eliminate or mitigate these hazards?”  Again, be sure to include everyone in the discussion and avoid spending too much time and focus on any one task so you don’t lose anyone.

By using this three-question format, you’ll get engagement, you’ll get the wheels turning in the minds of everyone on the work crew, you’ll get them thinking actively about how to work safely in their environment, and most importantly you’ll transfer ownership for safety to those who are most at risk.

That’s all the time we have for this edition of Recordable INSIGHTS. Until next time be sure all your safety talks are built in, not bolted on.



About the Author

Eric Svendsen
Eric Svendsen, Ph.D., is Principal and lead change agent for safetyBUILT-IN, a safety-leadership learning and development organization. He has over 20 years experience in creating and executing outcomes-based leadership development and culture change initiatives aligned to organizational goals, and he personally led the safety-culture initiatives of a number of client organizations that resulted in “best ever safety performance” years for those companies.