Why Safety Meetings Are Boring and How To Change Them

The Problem With Safety Meetings

It’s 6:50 am on a Wednesday morning. You are at work early arranging for the safety meeting which starts in a mere 10 minutes. You are responsible for creating the presentation and delivering it today. Inside of the conference room everything has been carefully prepared from the tiny golf pencils to the overhead projector. You only have a few minutes to collect your thoughts before everyone begins to flood into the room. The hourly employees show up first, usually in already dirty work clothes from the previous day. As a union shop there is always a strong unspoken tension between management and floor workers. The room is too small, too old and is falling apart. It’s uncomfortable, really. But for the next hour, everyone will be “forced” to sit through this information because attendance records are meticulously kept and truant employees are punished. Men and woman who have been working their trade, some for over 30 years, are made to sit down and listen to this 20 something safety guy tell them how to do their job. Can you imagine how interested they will to hear it all? It might look a little something like this:

why safety meetings are boring and how to change them

You get the idea. The problems are more than you care to list. And if you wanted to, you could convince yourself that each and every one of those problems is preventing you from delivering your safety training successfully. But the truth is, everything that matters most is completely under your control. Here’s why.


Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

What were some of your favorite classes in High School or College? Was is PE, woodshop, autoshop or band? Or maybe it was speech and debate, a photography class or your drama class? What do all of these classes have in common? The difference is that you move around, you’re engaged with the material, creativity and skill development is a huge part of everything that’s done. But what if your favorite class was History, English Geography or British Literature? A class where you don’t traditionally move around a whole lot. I bet you liked it because the teacher found a way to engage you or help you develop a skill by doing.

When we move around we increase the blood flow throughout our body. This is important because with an increase of blood flow people can pay attention better, retain information longer and actually enjoy themselves. They can think, learn and process. Instead of an hour long lecture the meeting turns into an hour too short. Physical activity affect mental cognition. No, I’m not suggesting we put a timer out for 15 minutes and do jumping jacks. But if you want to, here is a graphic you can print and hand out.

why safety meetings are boring and how to change them

Safety Meetings Need To Be Balanced

Most safety training meetings I have been to has one overarching goal: to get it done and documented. As a management team, its our weekly CYA, if you know what I mean. “Well, you were at the safety meeting so you knew what the rules are.” Unfortunately, at some facilities with a very acidic environment, it can also be a vehicle for punishing employees in many different ways. But what if our goal was to teach something valuable in a memorable and fun way?¬†How different would our working relationships be? What would employees think about as they anticipated the next meeting? That’s why safety meetings need to have at least two parts to them: A short lecture portion followed by a hands-on training segment. It needs to be balanced out.

Safety Meeting Suggestions

So how do you do that? It sounds like a lot of work and it might be at first. There will be learning curve as you adjust your approach to more fully serve your crews with a safety training they really deserve. First off, if we are really honest with ourselves, most safety training topics can be taught in 5-10 minutes. 95% of our trainings are simple and easy to understand. We don’t need to drone on for an hour. Here is what to do instead. Teach your topic for 5-10 minutes, then have a prepared hands-on activity relevant to your topic. For example:

  • Fall Safety – Have actual¬†Fall Harnesses, Lanyards, and anchor points examples and have people put them on.
  • Bloodborne Pathogens¬†– Have a BBP kit and have people go through the motions of cleaning up pretend infected clothing or tools.
  • Fire Safety – Bring several fire extinguishers in and put them on display. Have people feel their heft. Have people learn the visual differences between the styles then match them up with the correct fire.
  • LOTO – Bring some LOTO Locks and have people cut open old locks to show why it’s important to remove your lock at the end of your shift.
  • Electrical Safety – Bring in some bad extension cords and have people identify what’s wrong with them. Demonstrate how a GFCI‘s work.

The End Of Boring

Safety meetings don’t need to be a waste of time. There may be a lot of problems with your particular training situation. But if you make a bigger effort, bring a little more value and get people moving and learning a new skill, that hour will go by faster than you think. Believe me. And in the end, as long as you can control how you train, that’s all you really need to control to get the most out of your time.