Want supervisors to lead better safety meetings?

by on August 18, 2011 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

Some frontline supervisors are excellent safety-meeting leaders, but not all are.

How can you motivate as many supervisors as possible to lead effective safety meetings?

Here are some suggestions from safety-meeting guru John Drebinger, Jr.:

1. Motivate ’em with reminders of meetings’ purpose
Supervisors sometimes feel that they’re wasting workers’ time, or that they need to speed through the scheduled meeting so they can get to the “real work.”

Frequently remind supervisors that each and every meeting can easily prevent the next accident. The information can be life-saving. Sure, supervisors know that – but they need to hear it repeated to them.

Otherwise, it’s easy for supervisors to lose enthusiasm for the material – and workers will pick up on that and stare blankly back at them. The result is a low-energy presentation that everyone wants to finish as soon as possible.

2. Speaking of ruts … avoid doing the same presentation
Supervisors can fall into a rut – they present things in the same order, over and over again: Introduce a topic, give an example, explain the process, and tell workers what to do.

It’s a sound method to start from, but if not skillfully executed, yawn. Workers know what’s coming up and tune out. Supervisors should try to shake things up so workers don’t know what to expect. Some ways to do that:

  • Start with a talk from an injured worker – explaining how the person got hurt and where. Or bring in something the workers can touch and see, such as a piece of damaged equipment. (Photos will do in a pinch.) Pass them out and ask them what workers think about it … that’ll get them talking, thinking and more engaged.
  • You start by explaining the benefit of their listening – something that’ll grab their attention. For example, hold up a burnt-out piece of electrical equipment and say, “Who wanted to be holding this when it burned up yesterday?”

3. Make an emotional connection by showing the stakes
Only a small percentage of people learn rationally – it’s a little like trying to talk a smoker into quitting by explaining the health hazards: Yes, they know that, and they smoke anyway.

Similarly, workers usually know to do the right thing, but if you can make a deep emotional connection, they’ll carry that onto the job site.

For example, say you want workers to lock out or tag out. Showing someone what happens, either with a video clip, photos or a personal testimonial, will make a deeper connection than simply talking about what could happen or has happened. Key: Show the results of a failed lockout, don’t tell them.

4. Have high expectations
Finally, Drebinger says studies have shown that workers tend to live up to the expectations of the supervisor. Low expectations equals sub-par results. But if supervisors expect workers to master the material, they usually will.

(John Drebinger, Jr., John Drebinger Presentations, Galt, CA, www.drebinger.com)

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