How to engage workers in safety meetings

February 03, 2016

The way a message or request is delivered makes a huge difference. We experience this every day when we ask for things from all the people in our lives – at work, in the grocery store, and with our families and friends.

“Asking nicely” yields better results than “rudely demanding.”

When it comes to leading a safety meeting for workers, the tone and delivery of your message is also critical. The best way is to treat workers with respect, show your belief in their intelligence, and inspire them to have confidence in themselves.

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But too often supervisors and managers use a tone that’s “bullying,” says safety instructor/speaker Tanya Steele, who is speaking at the 2016 Western Conference on Safety in Vancouver on April 11 and 12.

In her talk “Don’t Let Safety Bully You!” Tanya describes how not to talk with workers.

“Do you remember when your parents stated ‘Because I said so!’ or when you were in school and the bully would tell you to do something or else he would beat you or stuff you in a locker or give you a wedgey?” Tanya asks.

She describes how this feeling of being bullied can happen at work when a boss or safety person is yelling: “Do safety this way because I said so – and if you don’t, you will be fired or disciplined!”

“Another example is when a worker cuts himself using an X-acto knife and because of this instance a company decides to take away all X-acto knives from grown-up adults,” Tanya says.

“What message is being perceived? Is it possible that you feel ‘We are all too dumb to use an X-acto knife’? Or maybe you have some great ideas to amend a policy or procedure, but your safety supervisor gets defensive and strongly imposes what he wants to do, whether it works or not.”

Tanya describes the effect of a bullying approach to safety.

“People shake their heads and do not trust or respect the safety person or supervisor. It decreases morale, decreases production, increases the workload, and the worker does not feel valued,” she says. “The result would be that injuries happen, which is what we are ultimately trying to avoid.”

In her session, Tanya will show delegates how to lead or mentor workers in a way that shows confidence in them. Tone of voice, body language, and walking around the room are just some of the techniques for engaging workers.

“I love the moment when they realize that it is easier than they thought,” Tanya says. “It’s amazing to see people’s physiology change when they feel relieved, empowered, and confident in their ability to change their workplace!”

This is the 21st year of the Western Safety Conference. In 2016, it includes 22 sessions, six courses, 34 speakers, and 80 tradeshow booths. Thanks to Tanya for the preview of what she will talk about.

Getting ready for NAOSH Week 2016

January 27, 2016

“Find a champion. Make it fun. Make it relevant. And most importantly, give them food.”

This advice on engaging staff in NAOSH Week comes from Darren Duffey, human resources advisor for the Capital Regional District in Victoria, BC. Darren and his crew on the CRD’s joint occupational health and safety committee developed a video called “The Amazingly Safe Race” and it won four NAOSH awards in 2015: Best Overall, Most Innovative, and Regional Government–Regional Districts and Nations in B.C., and Most Innovative in Canada.

The video is a take-off on the CBS series The Amazing Race, in which teams of people compete in a series of physical and mental challenges.

In The Amazingly Safe Race, three teams of CRD staff members compete to chainsaw a fallen tree, reverse through an obstacle course, fight a fire, rescue an injured firefighter, and perform first aid. Check out page 20 of the Jan/Feb 2016 issue of WorkSafe Magazine for more information on their success.

“One of the things we’re most proud of – with this project – is that we were able to do it with practically zero budget,” Darren says.

The next NAOSH Week runs from Sunday, May 1 to Saturday, May 7. The goal of this annual, continent-wide event is to promote the prevention of occupational injury and illness. Employers, workers, and all partners in occupational health and safety work together to raise awareness and have fun at work and in the community.

This year’s theme is Make Safety a Habit. For more details on how to participate, please visit the WorkSafeBC website.

Congratulations to Darren and his team at the CRD!

How to engage workers in safety meetings

This topic is on the agenda at the 2016 Western Conference on Safety in Vancouver on April 11 and 12.

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