Ensuring safety in the workplace is an important part of managing a secure, safe, and efficient workplace or learning environment. Both places of business and schools depend on a strong understanding of safety skills and procedures in order to maximize safety for the entire workforce (or in the case of schools, the faculty and the students). Leading an effective meeting requires planning concerning the sorts of safety meeting topics that should be covered, and the manner in which the employees will be instructed.
In a great number of cases, simple explanation will suffice for your safety meeting discussions. Be sure to employ the socratic method – ask your employees or students what they would do if a certain safety risk presented itself. This method is very effective when clearing up the specifics of common sense issues, such as “where to go during a fire”, or “where to go during a tornado”. Use the answers that employees give as a means to transition into an explanation of useful information regarding different responses to general, common problems that the workplace might face.
When dealing with issues where the employees or students themselves might need to take action, use of visual aids will probably be quite helpful. For instance, when giving instruction on the use of fire suppression technologies such as fire extinguishers, indoor fire hoses, fire blankets, and activation of sprinkler or foam fire suppression systems, use of a slideshow with pictures illustrating proper use of the technologies would be helpful. Using a video demonstration might be even more useful. Be sure that when safety technologies and tools are involved that employees or students know exactly where to find them.
The locations should be obvious, and clearly marked. Imagine that a safety hazard causes people to panic: can they easily look around the room and find a solution to resolve the issue, or a safe route to escape? Survey your building while keeping this in mind. Be sure to resolve problems in areas where important safety tools and technologies are not obvious or available. Bear in mind that though local building codes and fire standards often necessitate such tools be placed in certain locations, the bare minimum might not always be enough to optimally protect property and persons.
Disusssion Points of Instruction
First and foremost, fire safety is the most important topic to cover with employees or students No building is immune to fire, and fires can begin in places where they are often least expected. Make sure that everyone knows where the exits are, and establish a meet-up point.
At least one person should be in charge of taking a list to account for all persons in their area of the building, so it is easier to determine if someone remains in the building. Ensure that employees or students know how to utilize any fire suppression technologies that are available in the building. Point out the existence of pull-alarms that can be used to alert the building when smoke detectors might fail to detect a fire. Indicate where fire extinguishers can be found.
If applicable, point out how to activate fire suppression sprinklers or foam systems. With younger employees or students, it is important to point out the seriousness of using any of these tools in a situation where there is not actually a fire risk. Activating fire alarms when there is not a fire is usually a criminal offense in most locales, and entails a fine as well as a charge for the cost of fire department response. Activation of a sprinkler or foam system can cause thousands of dollars in property damage, as well as create many hours of downtime for the building. Use of a fire extinguisher will often create a terribly messy layer of fire suppressing powder to settle on everything in the area, which can generate steep cleanup costs.
Weather and natural disaster issues are also a concern for individuals in many parts of the world. Know what threats are common in your locale, and adjust your safety meetings accordingly. For instance, it probably doesn’t make sense to show staff a hurricane preparation video if you are located in Idaho. It would, however, make sense to establish a contingency plan for tornadoes and other severe weather situations. Be sure that there is a safe area of the building where people can gather in order to avoid the destructive power of severe weather. If you are located in an area that is prone to earthquakes, establish a protocol for exiting the building in a quick but orderly manner when an earthquake strikes. If your building contains harmful or dangerous chemicals or other substances, be sure that they are always secured in such a way that minimizes the risk of a safety hazard during or after a natural disaster or severe weather event.
Workplaces that use chemicals – even seemingly innocuous things such as detergents or cleaning products – should train employees to handle the chemicals appropriately and in a safe manner. Ensure that workers understand potential health hazards associated with misuse or mishandling of the chemicals they are entrusted to use in the course of carrying out their jobs. When potentially harmful chemicals are handled, the employees should always be trained on how to properly handle the chemicals in order to avoid safety hazards. Employees should also be trained on how to address spillage of chemicals, or the possibility of leaks. Employees should also be briefed on the importance of proper chemical disposal in order mitigate safety and environmental risks.
Discussions on workplace safety should also cover basic first-aid skills. This is not only useful for addressing minor workplace injuries, but also can be crucial during the minutes before emergency medical personnel can make it to the scene of an accident, or come to the aid of an ill employee or customer. First aid kits should be kept on hand. If possible, the presence of an automated defibrillator (and employees trained to use it) should be kept on hand in larger buildings; in some cases, the presence of this machine can mean the difference between a person’s life or death. We recommend that one of your safety meeting topics covers this defibrillator specifically.