How to Hold a Safety Meeting
A safety meeting is a necessary part of running a masonry job. Weekly safety meetings are needed, and many crews start every day with a safety meeting. After a near miss or injury, I believe a safety meeting is definitely in order.
To get the right outcome to a safety meeting, preparation must be made. Know your topic well. If you don’t know the issue and how to resolve it, it will show and you will lose credibility.
Choose a topic that is relevant to the crew. If a near miss or injury just took place, it will resonate with the crew and pique their interest. It also may keep them from being injured as well. It may be a safety violation that has been observed on the job. Assure the topic is something they may actually deal with. Giving a meeting on office safety, for example, is a monumental waste of everyone’s time. Even construction topics need to apply. Safe use of a spud wrench setting steel, charging Freon lines or using a fish tape to pull electrical wires probably isn’t going to help the average masonry crew. Make the topic matter to them.
It may be a good idea to have a handout. This will help the information stick in memory, and it can be kept and referred to later.
The meeting place
Now, we need to get this bunch together to be edified. I like getting the whole crew together at once. It shows the importance of safety to shut everything down for this express purpose. First thing in the morning, before or after lunch, or at day’s end is probably the most convenient.
The best place is a quiet place, but that is sometimes hard to find on a construction site. At least try to get away from other trades making racket, heavy equipment and loud talking. Speaking of which, don’t allow talkers in your safety meeting, unless they are sharing about safety. That’s exactly how I handle them. If I notice someone having a conversation (and not listening to the safety meeting) I stop and ask them if they have some input on safety to share with the group. That normally is enough, but if they persist, tell them plainly to be quiet and hold them after the meeting to explain the importance of safety and paying attention during the meeting.
Don’t be the enemy
We have all seen the guy who struts around wanting everyone to know he is the big man with something to prove. Pride is one of those diseases that make everyone else sick. If you’re that guy (not that you’d know it), the crew will resent every word you say. They will all talk bad about you on every occasion and, most important, when they are faced with a hazard, they won’t listen to your advice. Be respectful and courteous, but more than anything, make them know you care.
Attempt to communicate to them that you have some understanding of what they do and that you are more than a “rule maker” who “just sits behind a desk and never really does anything.” If you have construction stories from your life, by all means, relay them.
Tips and tricks
Speak with confidence. Not haughty, but know your stuff. Come across as a professional in this field of expertise, and that will help them believe you are an authority.
Ask questions. Questions do several things. Questions keep them on their toes and paying attention. They simply engage the crew, so that they are active participants, rather than spectators. Most important, it gets their brains working. They will remember more and think more when presented with a hazard.
If you can, give a little something away for good participation or to the whole crew. It doesn’t have to be big – a pair of dark safety glasses, line pins, lie blocks, a cap, Gatorade, etc. It is one more thing to connect with the crew and help them look forward to seeing you coming.
You also can ask a crew member to help you present a portion of the meeting. This will keep the attention even better than you can.
Finally, work at being a good public speaker. There are classes, books, workshops, clubs and seminars dedicated solely to helping people with public speaking skills. Be humorous; people love to laugh. Tell stories that would interest them. Use different tones and volume as you speak emphasizing the key thoughts. If you make an important point, pause. Give it time to sink in, and it will put even more emphasis on the point. Speak with passion about saving lives through safety, because who knows? Your safety may just save a life.
Zach Everett is Corporate Safety Director for Brazos Masonry Inc. and MCAA Safety Committee Chairman.