“You want ME to lead the safety meeting?!” Turning Front-Line Employees into Safety Leaders

"You want ME to lead the safety meeting?!" Making Everyone Owners of Your Health and Safety Plan--Call to Action!There’s a maxim that we mentioned in another article in this series that goes like this: “No one disagrees with their own ideas.”  There we suggested that instead of telling them how to be safe on the job, if we ask them open-ended questions about how they plan to be safe–getting them to actively think through their own personal health and safety plan–they will take more ownership of their own safety and the safety of others.

Why?  Because it ends up being their idea to be safe, not ours.

But we can take that same principle to another level by distributing the responsibility for leading safety meetings to everyone on the team.  When you do that, you turn safety spectators into safety owners.

Tip 4 – Make “Safety-Meeting Leader” a Floating Role

So far we’ve covered three tips in this series on making safety meetings stick: (1) “lead it, don’t read it,” (2) “ask, don’t tell,” and (3) conduct roving safety meetings.  This fourth tip will cover one of the best ways to improve the “stickiness” of your safety meetings. [password=”ste-03″]

Most organizations already subscribe to the notion that responsibility for safety resides at the level of each and every employee. Yet, if the responsibility for safety communication in safety meetings is perceived by everyone else to be the unique domain of a special designee (whether the safety specialist or the supervisor) they will never fully adopt ownership for safety.

There’s just something about being handed the mantle of responsibility for leading a meeting and presenting a safety topic to peers and coworkers that reinforces the notion that real ownership for safety, and real leadership in safety, belongs to “me” personally.  It reinforces the fact that I have a personal stake in my own safety as well as the safety of my coworkers, and that I am personally responsible for helping to create and reinforce a health and safety plan in the workplace.  50 things you must know about safety leadership

Rotating safety-meeting leaders gets everyone involved, places everyone in a leadership role, and creates a shared experience that results in everyone paying more attention to and participating more actively at each meeting out of a desire to support their team members–who will eventually become members of the audience when it’s their turn to lead the meeting!

We tend to become more engaged in activities that others are leading when we know our turn for leading a similar activity is just around the bend.  Sharing responsibility for leading safety meetings enhances personal ownership for safety, makes everyone a safety leader, and creates a climate that is ripe for developing and coaching safety-leadership abilities in front-line employees.

fctc-online-bannerBe sure to view the video below for more information on this.  We’ll continue looking at ways to make your safety message “stick” in our next issue.  But that’s all for this edition of Recordable INSIGHTS. Until next time.


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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.