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January 30, 2002

The Anatomy of a Safety Meeting

By Maureen Alvarez, CIH, CSP

Safety meetings are a key part of a safety awareness program.  Safety meetings are also one of the best methods to motivate workers to get safety out of the classroom and into the field.  Safety meetings can be formal or informal and can cover a variety of topics.

Formal meetings are planned and announced in advance in order to provide groups of employees with information from weekly safety letters, training issues, regulations, procedures, and hazard protections.  Informal meetings, often referred to as "Tailgate" meetings, can also be planned.  "Tailgate" meetings are often short in duration covering a specific topic.  These short safety meetings are very effective at relating safety to a specific job or work task.

Safety meetings are important to the success of your safety program because they impact all of the following:

1.   Safety meetings encourage safety awareness.  Other means of getting the safety message across are often too easily ignored.  But, when a group of workers get together to discuss the hazards they have encountered and the steps they can take to eliminate them, it increases each worker's safety consciousness.

2.   Safety meetings get employees actively involved.  In a sense, safety meetings put employees "on the spot"; that is, they demand feedback.  They get employees thinking about safety and encourage them to come up with ideas and suggestions for preventing accidents and minimizing the hazards with which they are most familiar.

3.   Safety meetings motivate employees to follow proper safety practices.  Small group meetings are the best place to demonstrate the uses of protective equipment, proper lifting techniques and other safety procedures.

4.   Safety meetings can help to nip safety hazards in the bud.  A safety meeting is the time to pinpoint minor hazards before they result in real problems.  It also presents a good opportunity to discuss hazards that are inherent in the environment and that experienced employees are likely to take for granted.

5.   Safety meetings introduce workers to new safety rules, equipment and preventive practices.  In addition to introducing new things, a safety meeting is a good time to reinforce the importance of long-standing safety procedures and to remind employees of the reasons behind them.

6.   Safety meetings provide vital information on accident causes and types.  Regular meetings are the best way of keeping employees up-to-date on the hazards in their environment and what can be done about them.  They also make it easier for the company to maintain accurate accident statistics, an important tool in tracing the progress of prevention efforts.

The basic elements of a safety meeting include, planning, preparation, supervision, and documentation.  Selecting a topic for a safety meeting is not always easy.  To ease the pain of this task, you can choose your topic by:

1.   Reviewing new laws or industry standards.

2.   Reviewing new company policies and procedures.

3.   Evaluating existing safety hazards as a meeting topic.

4.      Considering future events in the industry that may impact specific work procedures.

5.   Asking your employees for issues they would like to see discussed at the meeting.

The best time to schedule a safety meeting is in the beginning of the work shift.  Start the meeting on time, have the participants sign in, state primary purpose of the meeting, review old business from previous safety meetings, open agenda for suggestions for future meetings, present material for current safety meeting (use visual aids, such as video tapes, overhead transparencies, slides, or printed handouts to stimulate the employee's interest), review or give a quiz/test to the participants of the safety meeting, and present agenda for the next meeting.

Safety meetings will help keep the awareness of safety issues in the forefront.  Your employees will know that safety is important and they will be able to help carry that message throughout your facility.

Copyright © 2002 by WorkCare™ All Rights Reserved

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Original articles © WorkCare™; Orange, California.