As people were gathering for the meeting, Ami, the safety professional who had brought me to their site, thanked one of the employees for being at the evening session. The employee replied, “Management ‘strongly recommended’ we attend.” By the tone of his voice, he made it clear his leadership was doing all but making attendance at the meeting mandatory. I avoid reading people’s minds because body language and other indicators are not as accurate as some people would have you believe. In this case, if I were to guess, there may have been some resistance to attendance at the meeting on the part of the person to whom the safety person was talking.
I also thanked them for coming to the session and waited the next ten minutes before I was going to be introduced. During that time, I contemplated the importance of the conversation we just had. It made me realize having a supervisor who holds you to a higher standard is a blessing. That is exactly the person for whom you want to be working.
Congratulate your employees for choosing to work for a company committed to their safety
Following my introduction, I leapt to my feet and began my presentation with a new opening that had just come to mind after taking part in the preceding conversation. I congratulated the audience members for being intelligent enough to choose to work for a company whose leadership is committed to getting them home safely every day. I told them how excited I was their leaders had made sure they were there for the safety meeting today. All the leaders of the company had seen my presentation before and knew how important it was for their team members to attend.
One of the challenges I have as an effective safety speaker is too many audiences I am in front of have been bored over and over again by other speakers who had great information but did not know how important it is to make safety interesting and fun for the audience. Unless management cares enough to ensure each person will hear my message, the reputation of those who have gone before me keeps some people away.
This is less of a problem when I am speaking at the same site for several days to cover different shifts. By the second presentation, it is common for people to come early or stay late to make up for the meeting they missed. Once the word gets out that the presentation is not only fun and exciting but has information that will prevent injuries the room is always full.
Employees should appreciate leaders who protect their safety
Be sure you remind employees how grateful they should be for a leadership team who is concerned about their safety on and off the job. At every safety conference, I meet safety professionals at lunch or in the lobby who share that their company, “just doesn’t care.” One guy shared with me his leadership did the numbers and determined it was better to pay for injuries than to invest in preventing them. (I sure don’t want my children working for a company like that!)
Remind your leaders they are responsible to be sure every one of their people attend each safety meeting. Their employees are more likely to respond positively to a suggestion from their leadership than they would from the safety department.
Yours in Service,
John Drebinger Jr.