Raise your hand if you have ever rolled your eyes when you got an email announcing your companies next safety meeting. I see a lot of hands, and in fact, I have been guilty. This was of course, before I took on larger management roles in safety.
Looking back on my responses to past upcoming safety meetings, I asked myself, “Where did my dislike of attending safety meetings come from?” I realized that sometimes it was the presentation, and sometimes the presenter. Let's face it, we all know safety is important but not very exciting to talk about. Herein lies the challenge for Safety Management.
As an example, in 14 CFR Part 5 section 5.93 (Safety Communication), it states the following:
The certificate holder must develop and maintain means for communicating safety information that, at a minimum:
Ensures that employees are aware of the SMS policies, processes, and tools that are relevant to their responsibilities.
Conveys hazard information relevant to the employee's responsibilities.
Explains why safety actions have been taken.
Explains why safety procedures are introduced or changed.
Sound like real exciting stuff? Not really. The challenge for Safety Management is to somehow make this mandate more exciting and interesting for your coworkers. So, while safety is a serious topic, how you deliver safety information does not always have to be. I recommend being creative and adding some light humor when possible.
What steps can you take to have people look forward to your next safety meeting?
Create and distribute an agenda
Be as brief as possible and finish on-time
Incorporate visuals such as charts and diagrams
Know your audience and target your safety data accordingly (i.e. pilots, mechanics, administrative, etc.…)
Use actual “lessons learned” from your own operations while always protecting the identity of those who reported
Allow time for feedback
Follow-up with anyone who requested additional information
As a participant in a safety meeting, you can contribute to the effectiveness of the meeting. Many times, I would be conducting a meeting only for a participant to take a call or reply to a text. In emergencies, I certainly understand the need to do this, but most of the interruptions could have waited until after the meeting to address. Stay focused on the agenda. Ask questions or share an experience also helps the safety presenter keep everyone engaged.
Safety meetings are a crucial part of any operation fulfilling their SMS. Meetings should be consistently scheduled and held. I have seen a tendency for safety meetings to be delayed or cancelled. In my situation, due to the safety culture that was present, had it been any of the other areas of the company the meeting would have been held as scheduled. It is a slippery slope when you start thinking that safety meetings can be pushed or rescheduled. Only extreme circumstances should delay or cancel a scheduled safety meeting. Always keep safety relevant.
Make sure you document all your safety meetings and have someone take the minutes. Review the minutes from each previous safety meeting at the next meeting. Ensure that any “to-do” items from the previous meeting have been completed. If not completed, get an update on the expected completion date, and continue to carry the item over to the next meetings until it has been completed. Your safety efforts will be respected more when you make consistent progress on your safety “to-do” list.
Finally, make safety visible to all departments of your company. Go speak with all the new hire groups. Stop in and visit your frontline workers anytime you can. Develop a good relationship with your employee groups ahead of your meetings. It will pay dividends as far as interest and participation in your safety meetings.
I challenge all safety leaders to find ways to make your safety meetings something your employees do not dread. Put in the work ahead of time and follow some of the tips above and I think you will see more engagement and dare I say, excitement, for your future safety meetings!