Culture Change Begins with the Safety Orientation Session
By: Antonio Arzate, Consultant – Loss Control Services
November 1, 2015
A safety orientation session should include the following:
Their contributions matter – Begin by helping workers understand their roles and the company’s mission.
Treat them like people – Every individual in the room want to know that he or she is important, and that his/her opinions and experiences are valuable. How is the easiest way to do that? Use their names. By doing that, you’ve treated the questioner as a respected peer, rather than as a student.
Encourage their input – The traditional lecture with the presenter doing all the talking makes it far too easy for the audience to lose interest and attention. Asking for their input and involvement through the orientation will keep them attentive and provide a subtle reminder that they play an active role in workplace safety. Specific issues that involve their work practices will hold their interest better than vague rules. Conducting give-and-take also validates their own expertise, showing them that we regard them as professionals.
Tell stories – Rules tend to be boring. Stories make things real and memorable. If you can convey information about a rule through a story, you’ll improve attention and retention. Tell them about something that went wrong on a site, and how the safety procedures helped, or how failing to do the right thing led to injuries or other problems.
Share the reasons – Take it to the next step by explaining the reasons behind the rules. Remember that most work crews have been through many safety orientations, and they may believe they know everything about safety. Explain why your tasks are different. At some client’s sites, workers will encounter regulations like OSHA and EPA rules. They may not understand why they need to wear gloves and safety glasses.
Encourage questions – Always urge people in audiences to ask questions, because everyone (including the presenters) learns from those questions. Remind them that is always a good idea to ask about things, whether they ask their manager/supervisor, the safety director, or lead person. They shouldn’t assume that something is appropriate because they have always done it a certain way. In your company, the rules may be different, and asking before acting may save them a lot of grief.
Keep it light – Safety is a serious subject, but that doesn’t mean you need to present it in a stern manner. Warm, friendly comments and gentle humor will put even a wary audience at ease and improve retention of the message you are presenting. It breaks up the monotony for them and for the presenter as well.