We Can’t Hear You! Eliminating Distractions in Safety Meetings

preventing distractions in safety meetingsA safety meeting is often held directly on the job site–which is not a bad thing, but it can sometimes have unintended consequences.  If the job site has a high-decibel noise level from surrounding machinery, vehicles, compressors, or heavy equipment, you may find yourself contending for the attention of your audience in a competition you can’t win.  And if they can’t hear you, then there’s really no point in holding that meeting. [content_protector password=”meeting-hear-05″ identifier=”meeting-hear-05″]

So when you find yourself in that situation, you have four options:

1. You can shut down the noise source temporarily.  This isn’t always possible or feasible; but when it is, it’s always the best solution.

2.  You can move the meeting to a quieter location.  Move it inside a building, behind a building, or lead the group far enough away from the noise source so that it’s no longer a problem.

3.  You can project your voice to compensate for the noise level.  But if you opt for this solution be sure you’re speaking forcefully enough to be heard.  The problem I’ve seen most often with those opting for this solution is that the meeting leader typically continues speaking at the same low volume that he would normally speak if there were no noise at all.

4. You can amplify your voice.  A megaphone for outside or a microphone and sound system for inside will do the trick.  Many meeting rooms are already equipped with the ability to hook up a microphone.  Find out if yours is; and if it is then do your audience a huge favor and use it.

As good as these options are for mitigating distractions that pop up unexpectedly, an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure.  The best thing you can do to avoid the possibility of problems like this altogether is to do a pre-meeting walk-through.

Scout out the meeting location prior to the meeting, and stand in the places you think others will be standing or sitting during the meeting.  If it’s a larger meeting, walk the parameter of the meeting area to check for noises that can’t be heard from the spot where you’ll be standing as the meeting leader.  Draw an imaginary half circle to mark off the area where participants will need to stand to be immune from any noise competition, and be sure everyone stays within that area once the meeting starts.

This is important to do, by the way, whether the meeting is held inside or outside.  In an outdoor setting you’ll want to guard them against compressor, machinery, or vehicle traffic noise.  In an indoor setting you’ll want to check for noise from fans, air conditioners, heaters, and people traffic just outside the meeting-room door.  Even something as simple as a ceiling vent can become enough of a barrier to hearing that it tunes out your audience.  You may not be able to hear it from where you’re standing; but if you’re in the audience and sitting directly under it, it can be a huge distraction.

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.