With respect to promoting safety and imparting accident code to employees, safety talks are every company’s most profitable H&S mechanism as well as being the least expensive. The bottom line: safety talks are incomparably effective.

Providing employees with functional information during safety talks is the most effective means of preventing incidents on a worksite. Safety talks are a universal requisite in mining, oil and gas, construction, excavation, and the trades.

Value of a Safety Talk

Not just about prevention, safety talks are also cardinal in conveying accident protocol, and present an opportunity for supervisors and Health and Safety (H&S) staff to repeatedly emphasize the components of post-incident procedures.

With respect to promoting safety and imparting accident code to employees, safety talks are every company’s most profitable H&S mechanism as well as being the least expensive. The bottom line: safety talks are incomparably effective.

Purpose of a Safety Talk

  1. Address existing and potential situations on the worksite that pose a hazard.
  2. Explain steps, procedures, and protocols for preventing injury on/around a hazard.
  3. Define post-accident conduct and actions.

Art of a Safety Talk

A worksite is a fluid setting that undergoes radical changes over the course of a project. A supervisor who anticipates changes in advance can prevent incidents by keeping a crew aware of what to expect as a project moves forward. Those who do not can lull and desensitize employees, which can lead to errors.

The most common safety-talk lapse supervisors and H&S administrators perpetrate is redundancy, the same repetition of the same concepts in the same way, day after day. The second most prevalent flub is the dilution of key points, talking about safety measures in a general and uninformative way, without substance or details. Because of redundancy and the natural tendency to glance over important safety customs, morning safety talks risk falling into a state of reactive — rather than proactive — preparation, where issues are addressed after an incident, not before.

Repetition, Not Redundancy

The key to instilling a safety measure — and emphasizing its importance — in the minds of a crew is repetition, not redundancy. Safety talks should be a ladder that informs first, then requests, and, finally, reminds.

First, inform workers of what to expect and how to work safely in a situation. Then, request that the crew recognize the dangerous situation and consciously take measures to avoid accidents. Finally, remind the crew what the dangerous situation is and how to avoid it.

Repetition Ladder

A repetition ladder is a means of covering the same safety concept in a variety of ways and providing employees different perspectives of the same information. The ladder builds from one day to the next: form on the first day, request the next, and remind on the third. This three-day/three-step, repetitive process keeps dangerous situations on the minds of crew members even after regular safety talks.

Subjects Not Pertinent to a Safety Talk

What not to talk about in a safety meeting is equally as important as what to talk about. Safety talks should be short and memorable. Filling safety talks with an overabundance of material is counterproductive, and productivity is the most important component of a safety meeting. Safety talks are not for…

  1. Project or daily planning,
  2. Assigning responsibilities,
  3. Conferring with clients or suppliers, or
  4. Addressing administrative needs or expectations.

It’s very important to remember that safety talks are not for covering fundamental safety procedures and protocol.

Signs, Brochures and Idioms for the Basics

Supervisors and H&S administration should not use safety talks to cover basic worksite and industry safety. Safety talks are for addressing current, potentially dangerous issues, not explaining OSHA mandates or company requirements. Employees should be aware of fundamental safety code before ever walking onto a worksite. Understandably, not following basic safety precautions leads to being fired or fined in most instances.

Signs, brochures and idioms are effective means of reminding employees to follow safety protocol. Simple reminders —posters for example — are sufficient prompts for keeping the basics of safety in the minds of employees.