In the utility industry, safety meetings are a weekly ritual, and in many cases, they are a check-the-box requirement. If executed properly, however, they can become an important part of a utility's safety program, allowing for instructional and refresher time on important subjects. These meetings are vital for safety awareness and to keep immediate hazards top of mind. Finally, safety meetings constitute a significant investment in time and dollars.
So, if safety meetings are so important, why don't utilities hit them out of the park every week? Below are tips to help linemen prepare and execute successful safety meetings that will raise awareness, effectiveness and results, while leaving your field professionals wanting more.
- Start the meeting right
How you begin a meeting can have great impact on the energy throughout the meeting. To that end, purchase a meeting starter book and use some of the ideas.
- Go to the field
When I worked as an electrical lineworker for a utility, the company asked me to plan a safety meeting. The group was young and didn't have much experience with three-phase meter change outs. I approached a veteran troubleman, and we found a three-phase meter that needed to be changed. We contacted the customer, and on the appropriate Monday morning, the entire electrical department visited the location. The veteran troubleman then changed out the meter, instructing the linemen along the way.
Case in point: Don't stay in the meeting room; instead, get out and go to the field whenever possible.
- Organize a contest
Decades ago, Henry Ford realized that one shift in a particular factory was outproducing others. So, one day he took chalk and scribbled the number of cars produced by this shift on the floor so that the next shift could see it. That next shift stepped up and outproduced the other, and then each shift continued to produce more cars.
The point is simple: Contests motivate people. A contest like Henry Ford's may lead to shortcuts in the field, but other types of contests in safety meetings can motivate linemen to get involved and have fun.
- Feed the linemen
The old saying, “The family that eats together stays together” seems true. “The work group that eats together is safe together” also has some truth to it. Bring food and see the excitement grow.
- Bring in the veterans
In most cases, utilities all have veteran linemen who are respected for their knowledge and experience. Ask these linemen to share their real-world stories with your linemen during a safety meeting.
- Drive the point of safety home
Unfortunately, the utility industry has a large number of “walking wounded.” These linemen often have had serious injuries, and many times, they have interesting stories about how they wound up injured. Talk to these linemen about sharing their stories and the impact of their injuries on their families and their lives at home.
- Invite the CEO to talk to your line crew
When was the last time the CEO spoke at your safety meeting? When was the last time he was asked? Enough said.
- Think outside of the box when it comes to speakers
In my last column, I talked about the importance of bringing in outside safety speakers. Here is how you can make that goal happen.
Several years ago, when I was working as a safety professional for a utility company, I served most of Missouri. Within my territory, I served one work location in a town with the population of just over 60,000. The supervisor, who organized the safety meetings, had a goal to bring in one outside speaker per month. He defined an outside speaker as someone outside of the immediate work group who worked for another part of the company or was from outside the company altogether.
I first thought this was a lofty goal, one that couldn't be met. Yet, year after year, I saw outside speakers like conservation agents, doctors, police chiefs, local coaches, Eagle Scouts, OSHA representatives, managers from other plants, safety professionals from other companies and industry experts come to our safety meetings. These outside safety speakers brought results.
While it's a great idea to bring in volunteer speakers, consider treating your work group once per year to a professional keynote speaker. The energy created by this speaker can generate results for months to come.
By investing more time and effort in safety meetings, utilities can fire up their line crews to improve safety and operational excellence. In the end, companies can blow their workers away with safety meetings and leave them wanting to come back for more.
Matt Forck (firstname.lastname@example.org), a certified safety professional, worked as a meter reader and journeyman lineman, and was a member of his utility's safety staff. Today, as the president of K-Crof Industries, he speaks and consults on utility safety. Learn more at www.thesafetysoul.org.