How to Approach Jobsite Safety Meetings

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Among the most common complaints from field staff are 1) they need to hold a safety meeting every day or at least weekly, and 2) they don’t have much to talk about that’s new under the sun. Same old, same old, and you really can’t fault these guys -- their job is constructing and maintaining pavement, not creating safety stories.

It’s a proven fact that holding a safety meeting daily will keep your guys focused on working safe. In fact, you should be allowing for at least a half-hour per day, per person in your bid, to show you’re not going to try and skate on holding the meetings, at least you show some time for it. If the owner is serious about their Project & Safety, they will respect your position.

Here are some general suggestions for topics and approaches to safety meetings. You need to figure out how to add the “local color and commentary” to make these topics applicable to your job site. Always discuss the job, what’s going on and how to do it safely. Always ask for everyone’s input, feedback, thoughts, and ideas on how to improve.

Focus on the Job!

Divide it into small steps and talk about the safety factors of each step: Machines running around, dump trucks, defensive backing, use of a spotter, stay well away from anything that moves, i.e. No sidewalk superintendents. Think about something called the Internal Work Zone Traffic Control Plan. Google that term and see what OSHA & NIOSH have to say about it. Also, talk about the use of tools, noise, PPE etc. All this stuff qualifies. You can get an app to turn your phone into a noise meter. You’d be surprised how noisy things can get.

Insist on High Visibility

This applies to people but also to the rigs. Make sure they see you! Use buggy whips on your rigs if they can be obscured by dirt piles, geography, other machines, etc. Use LED strobes and daytime running lights on everything.

  • All persons must have high-visibility apparel, clean and properly worn.
  • Apply DOT red & white conspicuity tape to rear-facing surfaces.
  • Paint any obstructions on the site in high visibility marking paint. This paint will wash off with a pressure washer if it conflicts with the landscape décor, but your focus right now is safety, get it?

Plan for First Aid & Emergency Response

For example, a lot of the 911 communication in rural or remote areas is pretty much a toss-up. They can’t always find you based on you saying “I’m on a big construction site.” Really? Talk about sending someone out to meet & greet the EMS so they know exactly where to find you.

Talk about your SSIP

Pick any section and walk through it. You will already have talked about the SSIP in your pre-work mobilization meetings, but there are always sections that can bear repeating. For example, your emergency response plan (who will go to meet the EMS, who knows first aid, who calls the office, etc.) are all fair game to review

Explain Water Gel Burn Blankets

This is a safety meeting all by itself. These blankets or pouched sheets are used to cool and antiseptically passivate a burn on a person. But they can also double as a fire extinguisher or escape device depending on the situation, such as trying to get people out of a burning car at a gas pump. They’re a little pricey in the larger sizes, but when you need it, they are in fact priceless.

Require Daily Pre-Work Stretching

Do this at the start of the shift and after lunch. Yes, you heard right, twice a day. This takes all of about four minutes but can save you a lot in soft tissue (sprain & strains) injury avoidance. Great for building safety awareness. Better still if the Boss leads the exercises.

Encourage Defensive Driving

We all drive at some point. In fact over 40% of the 4700 occupational fatalities last year were transportation related. Does this number tell you something?

Here’s a tip: call your safety supplier and tell them you want a dozen high-visibility seat belt sleeves. Make these standard issue for your company vehicles. Yes, we understand that you have a seat belt policy. Yes, your drivers religiously wear their belts. This sleeve sends a message that you are serious about it. Not to mention it might save them a speeding ticket if the cops figure the guy is part of your safety program. Remember, this is not a beauty contest.

Discuss and Provide PPE

Personal Protective Equipment in all its wondrous forms: eye and face protection, hard hats, different types and properly fitted gloves (a tight glove will decrease hand fatigue and improve dexterity and grip) and more.

Watch the Weather

Yes, you heard right: Talk about the weather. OSHA is obsessive during the warmer months because of the growing number of heat exhaustion cases. Do the research and preach it. In the winter, talk about dressing in layers to stay warm and comfortable. This is a wide open topic, but trust us, all of your peeps are going to have their own religion on their dress code.

Make sure they understand that hydration is important all year round, and how eating junk food for lunch will take its toll during the hot afternoons. Also make clear how our blood will thicken in cold weather and thin in hot weather, and how by staying properly hydrated this can make a big difference in alertness levels, onset of fatigue, and a few other human cognition factors.

We hope this information is helpful to you. Honestly, we have seen some very high energy safety meetings take place in the rain, on a muddy site, in the cold, because the guy running the meeting connected with his crew and they knew he cared about them. Very often, it’s not so much what you say, as how you say it.

Another lesson we should pass on is this: Just because you’re the boss doesn’t automatically make you the best person to handle the meeting. If you have someone on staff who is a better speaker and presenter, well, delegate, and let them deliver the message. All you need to do is show up. You presence alone sends the message of importance. The speaker is just the mouthpiece. Remember, this is not a personality cult, it’s about the crew safety and not getting hurt. So leave the egos at the door and get your meeting going!!

John J. Meola, CSP, ARM is safety director at Pillar Engineers and he can be reached at 804-751-0600, ext. 4314 and jmeola@pillarens.com. He hosted “How to Set Up and Run an Effective Safety Program” at National Pavement Expo, Jan. 25-30 in Charlotte, NC.

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