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All About You: Put some pep into your safety committee

Richard Hawk

EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

Unless you’re new to the safety and health profession, you’ve probably been a member of – or even chaired – a safety and health committee. If you have, you know that keeping the committee vibrant is often challenging, especially during regularly scheduled meetings that can become painfully dull. Thankfully, whether you’re a member or the chairperson, you can add energy and “life” to the committee in a number of ways.

Show and share energy

Before entering a room for any meeting, I pause and take a moment to reflect on the meeting and remind myself to positively influence whatever occurs. Doing this centers my attention and, rather than jump into the room and start reacting, I enter with intention. Then, I greet everyone with a smile and usually a positive comment.

I’m sure we’ve all experienced the opposite – someone who walks into a meeting with a downbeat, even depressed, demeanor and drains the room of its energy. It’s incredible how much influence someone can have on a group just by their general attitude and emotional state. So, I vow never to be that person and to always uplift my colleagues through my body language and speech.

Encourage the committee to try new things

Most safety and health committees do the same thing at each meeting (review the last meeting minutes, go through the “hazard list” and then go around the room to hear from each member). Often, attendees have little to offer because there weren’t any developments since the last time the committee met.

So how about this: Between meetings, have committee members engage in new projects, such as completing virtual or in-person surveys to find out what employees are most interested in regarding their safety and health.

One company for which I’ve consulted asked for tips from the workforce on ways to help children get more exercise through play instead of being glued to their electronic devices.

Don’t dwell on problems

As safety pros, we tend to look for what could cause an injury or damage. Yes, that’s a major part of our efforts, but a safety committee should spend time on promotion, not just problems. For example, one committee created a lockout/tagout marketing campaign that involved members dressing up as a lock and greeting employees as they arrived at the plant. It was fun and got the message out about the importance of the topic in a memorable fashion.

Too often, safety committees spend a lot of time debating hazards and deficiencies in the workplace. If you limit the time you spend on these matters and allot more time to positive efforts, you’ll find the committee will be more active and upbeat. Plus, it will signal to everyone that safety isn’t only about avoiding incidents, but also about improving quality of life.

Have fun

Not only should you strive to have fun (energetic enjoyment), but I recommend you include it on occasion in your meeting agenda. Spend some time developing ways to make your committee meetings more enjoyable. For example, perhaps you could start each session with an “ice breaker” to help members get to know each other better.

One safety leadership committee I was part of started each meeting with a member sharing a funny, inspirational quote and then giving details about its origin and who said it. We even had someone on the committee come in and sing a song they wrote about personal protective equipment. Sure, we still dealt with serious matters, but those few fun moments at the start made a big difference. It put energy into our meeting and made our time together more enjoyable.

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Richard Hawk helps leaders inspire employees to care more about their safety and health so “nobody gets hurt.” He also has a long history of success getting safety leaders to increase their influence and make safety fun. For more than 35 years, Richard’s safety keynotes, training sessions, books and “Safety Stuff” e-zine have made a positive difference in the safety and health field. Learn more about how Richard can improve your employees’ safety performance at

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