Safety Meetings Can Save Lives

Seton CanadaThere’s no doubt safety meetings reduce accidents and improve the bottom line.

A landmark British study found regular safety meetings reduce accidents and mishaps by up to 22%. Another American study found employers report a $3 return for every $1 they invest in safety programs – the lynchpin of which are regular safety committee meetings.

Changing behaviour

Safety meetings aim to change people and their behaviour. Effective safety meetings must be anchored to “real-life” situations, experts say.

Ryan Heinish, Safety Director for United Rentals, Western Canada Region, says this approach will make your safety meetings dynamic and effective.

“An organization that is serious about safety meetings and regular communication is the organization who achieves its goals,” he says. “This includes both safety related key performance indicators and financial results.”

Darrin Husack, EH&S Manager for the Con-Drain Group, says regular, creative meetings highlight a firm’s commitment to safety and set a positive example that filters through workplace. So how can you hold a great safety meeting?

“In general one aims to get a signature message tailored to specifics of a workplace, its individuals, its supervisors,” Husack says. “This can be most effective.”

Hold safety meetings at regular, convenient intervals and give plenty of notice. Make sure employees have information they will need ahead of time.

Tool box format

The shorter “tool box” format works well. Here employees get small burst of safety info or skill sets, experts say. That can be linked with larger “tailgate sessions.” These sessions give supervisors the overall content strategies to impart to their teams.

And, above all, look for group leaders who will be able to act as role models.

“Good supervisors will learn to find the leaders in any work group and work with them, letting them help draw the message and move the platforms (for safety meetings) forward,” Husack says.

Progressive employers link performance/promotion and compensation packages to safety performance, including participation in meetings. Aim to make all topics (no matter how bureaucratic) relative to real-life examples in your workplace.

And don’t use lunch or break times for safety meetings. Doing so tells workers that safety is not important enough for separate time and must be squeezed into theirs. Provide light, healthy and inexpensive snacks plus green containers for water. And have paper pens, pencils etc. available.

Creative approaches

Vary your presentation. For example one meeting could have a DVD presentation, another, a guest speaker, the next a power point. Role playing and brainstorming are also effective formats. All are inclusive formats that help people work together and create relationships. And remember, feedback is crucial. The best type is not anonymous.

As for topics, ask your staff. They are your real-life experts. Examples:

  • What are two of the top daily safety challenges you see in your workplace?
  • Take a safety inventory of your workspace. Then discuss what could be improved and what is going well.
  • What would a sample safety checklist tailored to your work area look like?
  • Why is it hard to bring up some safety concerns, but easy for others?

Effective safety meetings must be anchored to “real-life” situations

If someone has slipped and injured themselves in a washroom because of an overflowing garbage dispensary, a safety meeting on this can help rectify any future problems by turning the issue into an actionable item by looking at the following issues:

  • What happened?
  • How did it occur?
  • Where was the breakdown?
  • What do we do?
  • What are the effective strategies needed to communicate a solution?

Online resources

For safety topics a good template is at:

For more broad scale information with links to safety meeting info online see: for general safety contacts by province. – for federal laws governing specifics of safety committees and meetings.

Seton’s GHS Safety Meeting Presentation Pack.

Print resource

How To Hold Great Safety Meetings by safety consultant Alan D. Quilley CRSP is an excellent, practical, how-to booklet that gives you a five-step formula for holding dynamic, goal-oriented safety meetings people actually want to attend. It includes problem solving techniques, meeting ideas and more.