Health and safety managers are always looking for fresh ways to keep safety top of mind amongst staff members. Through his work developing safer cutting tools, TJ Scimone has collaborated with OHS professionals working in many different industries and heard their common struggles with training and compliance. Over the years, he’s put this knowledge to use, creating Slice, Inc, to develop safer box cutters, utility knives and craft tools for industry. The following article first appeared on the Slice blog. This is part one of a two-part series. In the next installment, look for ideas and tips to try in your safety moments. ++++ Creating a safety moment—also called a safety minute, safety brief, or safety chat—on a regular basis is an important element of a comprehensive workplace safety plan. This is a way to reinforce that health and safety are the top priority in your workplace and develop a strong safety culture. As you know, having a strong safety culture has the ability to change everything, for the better. In the words of former US Senator Arlen Spector, “There is nothing more important than our good health—that’s our principle capital asset.” Of course, to be healthy, we also need to be safe. So what exactly are safety moments? And why are they worth your effort?
A Brief Time to Focus on Health and Safety
Safety moments are a short bit of time set aside to focus on health and safety. Make them no more than five or six minutes: less is better. They can be informal—just a brief reminder about some aspect of well-being. These briefs are not meant to replace safety training or to introduce any new safety protocols. Consider these moments safety boosters. In fact, this is a good time to touch on subjects that aren’t necessarily part of your regular toolbox talks or other safety meetings and training. Consider subjects that may not even relate to the workplace. For instance, reinforce the importance of not texting while driving to work (or any other driving time, for that matter). Or remind people of the importance of having an emergency preparedness kit at home. Michelle Farley, director of SafetyJourney and executive coach, echoes the sentiment that safety moments can be whatever you want them to be: “My own personal view is that there is no set formula for a safety moment. They can be anything from practical, need to know information or regulations, right through to recounting a personal experience (from work or elsewhere) and your learnings from it. The personal stories are often the most impactful safety moments because they demonstrate a vulnerability in the teller that we can all identify with.”
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When Should You Schedule a Safety Minute?
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Your brief mentions about safety can take place any time. You could schedule a safety moment of the day, or use the first few minutes of any meeting to share your safety message. The beginning of a shift is a great time to reorient workers’ thinking toward safety. Consider throwing in a surprise safety minute in the afternoon, and putting a little movement into it. Afternoons are prime time for fatigue or post-lunch food coma, and fatigue is a top cause of workplace injuries. So, your moment serves double duty: it helps snap workers out of fatigue and puts safety back in the forefront of their minds.
Is It Worth the Effort?
Yes, regularly taking a couple of minutes to put safety front and center is important and effective. When considering the psychology behind getting messages across, repetition is paramount. And regular safety moments repeat your safety focus. Advertisers know how well repetition works: messages are more effective when repeated. We never see just one commercial for a product, or even just two—we see them a multitude of times. Another excellent example of using repetition to infuse a message is pop radio. How many song lyrics can you recite in full because you’ve heard them dozens of times? Be the advertiser. Be the DJ. However, warns Farley, safety moments only work “if you have the leadership engagement and culture for it to be effective.” That is, your organization needs to back up these brief nods to safety with a strong safety culture. Some key elements of an effective safety program include the following:
- Employee involvement
- Safety training that starts on day one
- Protocols that are specific to your workspace
- Regular reevaluations of health and safety needs
- Well maintained and well fitted PPE
- Regular refresher safety training and education
A Time to Get Creative
Safety chats can cover any subject that has to do with well-being. There’s no set script and no set topic you must address. So you can get creative. The only mandate is that your message be genuinely useful. A good test for this is to first ask yourself: Is this something I’d apply to my own life? Do I find this information interesting? If the answer to these questions is yes, it’s likely that it will be yes for your workforce, too. People do not appreciate feeling like they’re being run through the paces just so management can tick a box. “I have certainly heard my fair share of ‘token’ safety moments,” says Farley, “and I am the first to admit that these do more harm than good.” Messenger beware! Of course, delivery is important. And again, there’s no set format. It’s worth noting here that DJs and those who create ads have something in common: they deliver entertainment, something catchy that you want to pay attention to. Personal storytelling as mentioned by Farley is one entertaining approach. Who doesn’t love a good story? Adding a little humor is also a good way to keep people’s attention. Don’t think that safety can pair with humor? Check out this epic Air New Zealand safety video: And as with all safety messaging, change your presentations over time to keep them fresh. Get your crowd involved, show a video, present posters. Also consider relevance as regards time of year. Perhaps focus on healthy eating habits over the holidays. Discuss fire safety leading into the summer, and slip-and-fall prevention to address icy surfaces in the winter. The more applicable your information, the better your safety moments will be received. Well thought out and useful regular safety moments will go a long way to show your workforce that you take their well-being seriously. And they’re a quick way to sustain safety awareness all the time.
I’m In; What Next?
So now you’re jazzed about infusing safety messaging in small doses on a regular basis. But what does that look like? We’ll get more specific about what a safety chat can look like, providing safety moment examples and sharing safety moment tips, in next week’s blog post. Get ready to “wow” your workers with your excellent safety moment.
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