How do you make sure people show up and actually learn something?
Ensuring the health and welfare of employees while they’re working on a construction site is the legal responsibility of employers, and safety meetings are an essential part of that obligation. But how do you make sure people show up and actually learn something?
Keep meetings regular and short
It's important to hold safety meetings at a regularly scheduled time at the start of the workday. An ever-shifting schedule will make even the most safety-minded give up on trying to make time for them.
Construction sites are inherently busy places, and everyone is there to work, not stand around. Keep the meetings short — about 15 minutes max — or you'll find your audience's attention begin to drift.
Pick a presenter who knows their stuff
Stick to a narrow topic, such as procedures for working in a confined space or the proper use of tools to avoid repetitive stress injuries, and make sure the presenter knows enough about the subject so that he or she can share the information in a natural, engaging way.
Now is the time to address any recent safety incidents or talk about any particularly dangerous tasks planned for the job in the days ahead.
Keep it relevant
Don't waste everyone's time by discussing the finer points of excavation and trench safety when the only phases left to do on the project are interior finishes. Keep the topic pertinent to the work that’s in progress or getting ready to start.
Encourage workers to lead a meeting once in a while or at least speak up when they have a concern. The more that attendees feel part of the safety process, the more likely they are to take responsibility for safety on the job.
Have few laughs
Make the meetings fun. Keep track of attendance and give out silly prizes to people who miss the fewest meetings. Watch videos about that meeting's safety topic instead of having someone talk or read for 15 minutes. Attendance will increase, and the meetings will fly by.
Make it mandatory
For employers, make safety meeting attendance mandatory in the company's employee policy and safety manuals. For general contractors, require subcontractor attendance in their contracts. On the days people just don't feel like showing up at the meeting, a contractual or procedural obligation might give them a nudge.
Kim Slowey is a writer who has been active in the construction industry for 25 years and is licensed as a certified general contractor in Florida. She received her BA in Mass Communications/Journalism from the University of South Florida and has experience in both commercial and residential construction.