A lot of good can be accomplished in a five-minute safety talk. “They are a great way for supervisors to refresh workers’ knowledge of hazards and safe work practices, opening lines of communication around safety - particularly beneficial for young and new workers – and reinforcing the company’s commitment to health and safety,” says WSPS Health and Safety Consultant Tova Larsen.
Too often, though, safety talks fall short of these objectives, explains Tova, because they’re not delivered consistently enough and/or fail to engage workers. “Workers get bored and tune out if the conversation is static and one-way.”
“To grab and keep workers’ attention, safety talks need to be dynamic.” That is, two-way, lively, compelling, and constantly changing.
To get workers excited about your safety talks so you can reap the benefits, just follow these six suggestions from Tova.
6 steps to better safety talks
By improving your own skills, embracing change, and involving workers, supervisors can make safety talks much more compelling.
- Amp up your soft skills. Being a leader, mentor, motivator and effective instructor are essential skills for supervisors. Honing these skills through training will improve your ability to build relationships with workers and craft and deliver safety messages that resonate.
- Hold safety talks every day. “Starting each shift with a safety talk creates the idea that safety and operations are integrated, keeps safety top of mind, and strengthens lines of communication around safety.”
- Keep groups small. It’s challenging to capture the attention of 40 or 50 people all at once, so divide your workers into smaller groups. “A small group is much more intimate, and you’re better able to turn it into a two-way interaction.”
- Develop a list of relevant topics. This can be done a month in advance. Base your list on the tasks and activities of the group you are speaking to and on the hazards they face. “Go task by task, activity by activity over time.” Vary your focus if you present on the same topic again.
- Change it up. Find new ways to present information and get workers involved.
- Create trivia games. Keep them lighthearted and non-punitive. Use the games to gauge knowledge and understanding of a particular topic and determine training needs.
- Use demos. “Demos create a hands-on learning experience.” Examine the contents of a spill kit and talk about how it is used. Have your group sit in a parked forklift to see just what the driver sees at pedestrian crosswalks. Ask your joint health and safety committee to lock out a piece of machinery while your group watches.
- Start your talk with a short, engaging video. There are readily available online, covering a wide range of safety topics. “Some are even lighthearted but contain a serious message. If you can create an interaction with a laugh, people are a lot more likely to listen to what you have to say.”
- Tell stories. Stories are a powerful way to reach people – even stories about near misses and incidents related to your topic. (Before sharing stories from your own workplace, get permission from the workers involved.) Keep your discussions future focused. After relaying the story, ask for suggestions about what went wrong or what could have been done differently. Also share safety success stories if you have them. For example, how a worker’s quick reporting of a hazard prevented injuries to his fellow workers.
- Involve workers. Ask for topic suggestions. If the group feels passionate about an issue, ask a few of them to research and deliver the talk. “Giving workers the opportunity to take the initiative and demonstrate their own skills pays incredible dividends both short and long term.”
How WSPS can help
- The Effective Supervisor – Building Strategies for Success (2 days, classroom)
- The Effective Trainer (2 days, classroom)
- Supervisor Responsibilities & Due Diligence (3-4 hours, eCourse)
- Supervisor Responsibilities & Due Diligence (1/2 day classroom)
- 8 tips on how to be a great supervisor (article)
- Supervisors build a strong safety culture (brochure)
- Good Supervisors are Good for Business (brochure)