Most every contractor gathers employees first thing on Monday morning to address safety-related topics. But how well are these meetings received? What real purpose do they serve?
While safety meetings have become the norm, what can you do to make sure they are effective? To help you get started, we asked three construction firms, known for their high-level safety programs, what they do to ensure their meetings add value and get the point across.
Interactive and relevant
T.B. Penick & Sons, Inc., based in San Diego, CA, is a general contractor involved in structural concrete, design/build, prime trade, civil and innovative concrete. About 18 months ago, Pete Lupo, director of safety, revamped the company's safety meetings, which are typically held for about 15 minutes every Monday morning, "in the dirt" on the jobsite. Attendees include Penick employees and any subcontractors who may be working on the job.
Safety meetings give the company the ability to promote safety practices on a weekly basis. "There are hidden hazards in every single task we perform," says Lupo. "If we don't preplan and talk about what we're going to do, we're at a much higher risk of hurting ourselves."
The meetings also emphasize the company's moral obligation to protect the health and safety of its employees. "No one wants to see anyone get hurt," Lupo states. "Working at heights is one of the most dangerous tasks we do - building structural concrete buildings, parking structures, etc."
The main objective behind refocusing the safety meetings was to make them more interactive and relevant, and thus more effective.
Previously, the company relied on preprinted safety topics. "We passed around the clipboard and asked everyone to sign the sheet at the bottom," Lupo indicates. "We had various levels of what each supervisor talked about."
Now, supervisors are essentially given a blank sheet of paper listing the job name, number and date. They are required to choose a topic related to the week's work and list five relevant items. To gain ideas, supervisors are given three main sources of information: the company safety policy booklet, the Cal/OSHA pocket guide and a booklet of predesignated topics that the company has developed.
"We make them fill in specific items [that relate to the topic]," he says. "It can't be generic, such as fall protection. We make them list if they talked about anchor points, inspection, training, etc. It's a little bit more interactive."
As part of the meetings, they also discuss near-miss accidents that may have occurred on a Penick jobsite, or any jobsite. Those near-misses can also prompt a mid-week safety meeting, if deemed necessary.
Giving employees the ability to offer suggestions is another component of the safety meetings. "We open the meeting up to include comments from employees and tradespeople," Lupo says. "It's an open forum for everyone where we can highlight areas where we've been doing a good job and others where we may need to make improvements."
Lupo feels one of the real keys to the success of the current safety meetings lies in follow-up and review. Project managers and safety inspectors will look at the previous month's safety meetings. "It's a two-pronged approach," he says. "With a follow up and review in place, we're making sure that safety isn't just getting pencil-whipped. If no one ever checks, you can't be sure it's being done."
Another focus of the safety meetings is to address items on the safety survey. For example, if a safety inspector notes that an operator was working around a tractor without an orange vest, he is required to cover that in the next safety meeting to ensure it doesn't reoccur. "We try to cover as much as we can as to what's happening on a specific job," Lupo says. "We don't want unsafe practices to be repeated."