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.

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One Response to “How to engage workers in safety meetings”

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  1. Eulogio Jacobo says:

    Nice article. I think I have done some “safety bulling” without even knowing. Can’t change the past but for now on, I will be more careful, following this examples and recommendations.

    Thanks for this valuable information.