Seven steps to better workplace safety meetings

Susan Main, Speaking of Safety; 4 January 2017

These tips from Tanya Steele will help your team get the job done. Tanya is a safety trainer and advisor who presented Rejuvenating your Safety Committee at the 2016 Safety Committee Conference in Langley on Nov. 2, 2016.

1) Give out the agenda one week before the meeting
An advance agenda gives people a chance to add to it and to reflect what’s going on in the workplace.
“They want to contribute, not just show up and wing it with no agenda. One of the biggest complaints I hear in class is that the chair is unprepared or that the agenda comes the morning of the meeting.”

2) Start and end on time
People fall into the habit of arriving late if meetings don’t start on time.
“When I ask students to make a list of everything that drives them crazy about their committee meeting, it includes not starting on time and ending late.”

3) Bring snacks and water
People often want coffee and tea, which is fine — but what they really need is water.
“Have water for everybody, because when you’re hydrated your brain works better and you’re energized. You stay more focused. If you’re drinking coffee, you’re just dehydrating yourself with the caffeine.”
Good choices include bananas, apples, grapes, and granola bars.

4) Get the quiet people talking
One way to get quiet people to talk is to have a roundtable discussion, at the end of the meeting, where every member shares a story about what’s working well.
Encourage members to share something that’s good. Have them talk to their department — because that’s who they’re representing — and ask if they have anything positive to contribute.”

5) Leave on a positive note and thank everyone for their time
It’s important to thank everyone at the end, explains Tanya: “People will start to get excited about being on the committee because they’ll see they are part of a purpose or a bigger plan.”

6) Recruit new people by asking in person
If you’re looking to invite people to join your safety committee, Tanya shares this advice: “Don’t just send out an email that says there’s a spot on the committee. If you actually physically go and ask somebody, and tell them why you want them, they’ll be more likely to join the committee.”

7) Make sure the chair controls the discussion
When people go off-topic, says Tanya, it’s important for the chair to steer the conversation back in the right direction. Add off-topic ideas to the agenda and revisit them at the end if there’s time.

For more information, see Joint Occupational Health & Safety Foundation Workbook and Joint health & safety committee member training from WorkSafeBC.

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