All about you: Put some spirit into your safety committee

EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of a safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, safety professional and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety professionals 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 a committee viable is often a challenge, especially during regularly scheduled meetings that can become painfully boring. Fortunately, whether you are a member or chair, you can add energy and “life” to the committee in many ways.

Show and share energy

Before entering a meeting room, I stop and take a moment to reflect on the meeting and remind myself to positively influence everything that happens. By doing this, I center my attention and instead of jumping into the room and reacting, I go in with intention. I then 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 downcast, even depressed demeanor and drains the energy from the room. It’s amazing how much of an impact someone can have on a group just by their general attitude and emotional state. So, I promise to never be that person and to always lift the spirits of 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 every meeting (review the minutes of the last meeting, review the “hazard list” and then go around the room to hear from each member). Often the attendees have nothing to offer as there are no developments since the last committee meeting.

So how about this: between meetings, get committee members involved in new projects, such as completing virtual or in-person surveys to find out what employees care about most in terms of their safety and health.

One company I consulted for asked the workforce for advice on ways to help kids get more exercise through play instead of being tethered to their electronic devices.

Don’t dwell on the problems

As safety professionals, we tend to look for what can cause injury or damage. Yes, it is a major part of our efforts, but the safety committee should spend time on promotion, not just issues. For example, one committee created a lockout/tagout marketing campaign that involved members dressing up as locksmiths and greeting employees as they arrived at the plant. It was fun and I got the message about the importance of the topic in a memorable way.

Too often, safety committees spend a lot of time discussing workplace hazards and deficiencies. If you limit the time you spend on these issues and spend more time on positive efforts, you will find that the committee will be more active and optimistic. It will also signal to everyone that safety is not only about avoiding accidents, but also about improving the quality of life.

Have fun

Not only should you aim to have fun (energetic pleasure), but I encourage you to include it in your meeting agenda at times. Spend some time developing ways to make 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 on 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 from the committee come in and sing a song they wrote about PPE. Of course, we were still dealing with serious issues, but those few fun moments early on made a big difference. It energized our meeting and made our time together more enjoyable.

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as an endorsement by the National Security Council.

Richard Hawke helps leaders inspire employees to take greater care of their safety and health so “no one gets hurt.” It also has a long history of success in getting safety leaders to increase their influence and make safety fun. For over 35 years, Richard’s safety keynotes, training sessions, books and e-zine ‘Safety Stuff’ have made a positive difference in the field of safety and health. Learn more about how Richard can improve the safety of your employees at

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