Firstly toolbox talks and safety meetings are not just for construction sites and major projects, every business needs to talk about safety and that’s what these meetings are all about. So before you say, ‘but I’m a small business I don’t need these think again, consultation is a key part of WHS in every business in every state.
I have presented at an untold number of Safety Meetings/Toolbox Talks, there is nothing fun about presenting a topic no one wants to hear and getting resounding silence when you ask if there are any suggestions for improvement.
Overwhelmingly people tell me they don’t like what goes on in these meetings very much, don’t feel comfortable, don’t want to say anything in front of others and on and on.
So what can we do to fix this?
Safety should be a positive topic!
Might sound a little different but if you only have negative information and comments about safety then people will actively avoid it. Just like you dread the cops pulling you over because they never pull you over to say ‘great job, your driving is fantastic’, if you never have anything nice to say about safety then you will build a heavy dislike of the topic.
Actively make an effort to have positive things to talk about. It could be anything, a good example you have seen recently, single someone out and praising them for great work. Set rewards for staff who have actively help with improvement initiatives, Free coffee from the smoke van? It doesn’t have to be big but it needs to be positive. We all know there will be enough negative things to talk about so lets try to make some of the talk positive.
Let’s not make it a special meeting
In an effort to make safety a more integrated part of your business, don’t have a special meeting just for safety. Having said that don’t tack it onto another meeting either.
Integrating means when you have a meeting discuss the safety aspects of whatever you are talking about. New equipment, is there training needed? Expanding the business, what are the safety considerations? Increase production rate, what does that mean in terms of safety? Almost everything you talk about in any business meeting can have safety aspects so starting thinking actively about safety. The most important part is that any issues raised or discovered should be recorded and followed up, this is the key part of consultation.
Make sure there are Results
When you get feedback or suggestions or anything from your work group don’t let the opportunity to show them how great the systems works slip by. People are much more likely to participate in the process if they know that it will get results or bring about change. The worst thing you can do is get feedback and not act on it. Now I’m not suggesting you need to do everything everyone suggests but you should make a point of following through on everything. ‘We looked into the suggestion you make but it’s not the best option for us, do you mind helping us look for a different option’ is a very different response to resounding silence or rolling your eyes. Remember that the people you are talking to are the people on the front line and they can come up with some great ideas when given a chance.
Lead by Example
Perhaps the most important aspects of getting positive results from safety meetings is you. If you have a negative view of the meeting then the result will be negative, simple as that. If you project a positive attitude, be proactive then you will see a change in your staff. Give it a try, be positive. Being positive isn’t just words either, remember that the way you stand, your posture and mannerisms all let people know what you really think about what you are talking about, make them positive.
So to make the most of a process that you have to have in your business, make it positive, integrate it into your business process, make sure there are results from the process and Always Lead by example.