Safety Meetings Should be About People, Not Policy

Safety Meetings Should be About PeopleLeading a safety culture is vastly different from following and enforcing regulations.  But the content of our safety meetings sometimes suggests that we’re more concerned about compliance than we are about culture.  Our message in a safety meeting may very well include the latter, but it should never exclude the former.  People are more readily engaged and respond more favorably to a safety message when the focus is on things that matter most to them. [content_protector password=”meeting-story-02″ identifier=”meeting-story-02″]

Messages that focus on compliance, policies, regulations and statistics may in some cases spark interest and curiosity, but they don’t inspire people to internalize it and do the right thing when no one is looking.  That requires striking a nerve at the heart of their core values—and with very few exceptions, that core value will have something to do with family.

As an example, many safety-meeting leaders already use incident reports in their meetings to raise awareness about hazards and how to avoid them.  Some even solicit help from select participants in the meeting to read the incident reports in an attempt to get audience participation.  That’s a good start, but true engagement requires more than that.

Reading an incident report takes us right back to the problems we addressed in an earlier video; namely, safety meetings should be led, not read.  Having a participant read (and in many cases, stumble through) an incident report usually doesn’t engage anyone—not even the one who’s reading it.  The reader is often unprepared and self-conscious due to being put on the spot, and the result is often that the reading itself comes across as monotone, dis-impassioned and sterile, and the focus is usually on the mechanics of that incident rather than the impact to people.

If instead we tell a story about that incident, and focus on the impact it had on people — How did it impact the employee, the employee’s family, the employee’s coworkers and friends?  What was the true “cost” of that incident in terms of people? — we end up engaging the participants of that meeting by creating a “vicarious experience” for them.

A vicarious experience is one in which the participants of that meeting will “feel” the impact, will find themselves empathizing with the people involved, and will relate the story to their own lives and situation, even though they haven’t personally experienced that incident, nor necessarily know the people who were involved.

Now, if we do this successfully there will be little need to appeal to policy and regulation to convince them to do things the right way because they’ll already be convinced to do the right thing.  It’s something they’ll want to do out of a desire to spare their families the true “cost” of an incident.

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.