Safety Meeting Success

What makes for an effective safety meeting? Here are a few suggestions.


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While touring machine shops I plan to write about, I make it a point to notice if basic shop safety practices are being followed. The most common transgression I’ve observed is people not wearing eye protection. I’ve also encountered operators who have found ways to bypass safety interlocks so they can open a machine’s enclosures while it is cutting. On some occasions, I’ve spotted puddles of coolant nobody has mopped up, waiting for someone to come along and slip. I could cite other examples, but you get the idea.

Because the cost of a workplace mishap can be significant in a number of ways for employer and employee alike, shop safety must be at top of mind for all. One way to ensure this is to hold routine safety meetings. But what makes for an effective meeting? Consider these five fundamental guidelines from Sentry Insurance, a leading insurer of U.S. metalworking facilities:

Pick a topic. First, review accident records to identify issues to address, and then analyze your audience. Is the meeting intended for shopfloor employees, management, office personnel or sales representatives? The meeting topic might be appropriate for only one or two departments. An example would be a presentation about back safety geared toward machine operators and the shipping and receiving staff.

Keep it brief. The most effective safety meetings are brief, to the point and easy for the audience to digest. Meetings estimated to run longer than 30 minutes should be broken into multiple sessions. Each meeting should cover only one safety topic to maximize the audience’s comprehension of the material.

Use visual aids. Incorporating visuals into the meeting helps boost the audience’s retention of the message. Examples include DVDs, slideshows, live demonstrations, pictures and printed handouts. To increase information retention, enable audience participation through hands-on activities, written tests and so on. That said, the meeting should not consist solely of a video or slideshow presentation.

Ask for feedback. It is important to encourage the audience to ask questions and provide feedback. You might spur audience interaction by asking employees to share a personal experience related to the topic. Keep the conversation friendly and don’t start a debate. Near the end of the meeting, conduct a question and answer session before recapping the presentation. Always give employees information to take with them, such as a handout.

Follow up. Employees should be reminded of what was presented in previous safety meetings. Another handout similar to what was provided at a meeting should be distributed to employees a couple weeks afterward. This handout might include an outline of achievements and future plans as it relates to that meeting’s safety topic. Posting charts or graphs in the facility that track safety progress will further reinforce the company’s goals, while safety signs will remind employees of pertinent safety messages. Plus, consider scheduling follow-up training sessions to reinforce safe working practices and remind employees how important shop safety is to the company.