Kevin Lindley, Safety Consultant, FRSA Self Insurer's Fund
“Safety meetings are a waste of time and money.” There, I said it. It is often said that meetings to discuss safety topics are a waste of time, money and resources. Yes, safety meetings by themselves, without intention, application, follow through, reinforcement and, most importantly, comprehension, can be a waste of time.
There are many reasons safety meetings are not producing the desired results. Employees and workers come to morning meetings with their mind on the tasks at hand; they are not mentally present at the meeting. Amazingly, most field workers do not do well in a classroom setting and have trouble comprehending certain ideas when only discussed – they are hands-on individuals. Language barriers, hunger, distractions in and around the training area, timing of the meeting, poor speaker(s), ill-prepared lessons, non-applicable material, others in the room, etc. are some of the distractions or reasons they are not mentally present.
When approached poorly, safety meetings can be needlessly repetitive, rehashing the same topics in the same way. I can only watch the same episode of a TV show so many times before I stop watching or paying attention to it. We should ask, if the information has been heard several times, then why aren’t the safety practices being adopted in the field?
There is a gap in training to application in the field when it comes to safety practices and that is frustrating. Companies talk about safety and employees want to be safe, but we are often training and reinforcing in the wrong fashion. It is frustrating as a trainer to talk about a topic for an hour, only go into the field and observe workers blatantly disregarding what was just reviewed only minutes earlier.
So, how do we “fix” this problem? How does a company break through the barrier and achieve compliance with safety policies in the field? Wanting to be safe does not make workers safe. Talking about safety occasionally does not make much of an impact. Going into the field and forcing the workers to comply with safety regulations only makes a temporary difference. There is no single missing ingredient for success in this recipe. Training needs to be fully comprehensive, both in language and content. It needs to be delivered in such a fashion that the workers present are able to understand and mimic it in the field. It has to be practical; it needs to be uniformly applied and followed. This means management needs to hold workers accountable and the other workers need to hold each other accountable. Read more.