Interesting safety topics
Is it important to cover 'interesting' safety topics?
The purpose of discussing safety, conducting toolbox talks and doing formal safety training is to keep people safe - not to entertain them or keep things interesting.
But, when the goal of something is to change or improve human behaviour, it's important to make the inputs which influence this behaviour interesting.
This is true for all things which are good for people too. While exercise and eating well might be good for us, we need the exercise we do and the food we eat to be interesting - otherwise we inevitably lose interest and venture towards the things which aren't good for us.
Covering interesting safety topics shouldn't be your main goal, but it should form a part of your process for thinking about what to talk about. The more interested people are in a topic, the more engaged they are and the more they will learn, absorb, apply and even talk about.
What makes a safety topic, interesting?
What makes an interesting safety topic isn't as obvious or as easy as it sounds. Interesting safety topics aren't simply funny safety topics or interesting on any other objective measure.
Interesting safety topics can simply be interesting because they are relevant; they can be interesting because they are new; and they can be interesting because the person discussing the safety topic covers it in a way which is interesting. In fact, the approach to a safety topic is often the crux of whether it is perceived as interesting or not.
The 'best' way to make a safety topic interesting is to make it relevant to your audience.
Relevance might mean that it is a topic specific to this project or days work, or that the discussion is stemming from a near miss or incident which occurred yesterday. The best part of focusing on relevance as your source of interest is that it creates the best alignment between interest and outcomes.
If a safety topic is more relevant, then it is typically more valuable too. It means that people want to and need to learn more about this topic because it will have a material impact on how they approach an activity, process or work in general.
The next best way to make a 'boring' or 'common' safety topic interesting is to approach it in a new and novel way. Safety is not always the most exciting subject, but everything can be made interesting through a bit of fun and engagement.
Some strategies for turning mundane safety topics into interesting safety topics include:
- Ask for opinions and insights - One of the things which creates disinterest in safety topics is when people feel as though they are being lectured to. If you don't want to lecture workers like students, then ask for opinions and insights when discussing safety topics. Workers are on the front lines and have a lot of great insights about every safety topic, and people who specialise in today's safety topic can pass on a lot of really good advice to people who are less familiar with that topic.
- Give away prizes - If you really want to turn up the interest on your safety topics, give away prizes for the people who get the most answers write in a post-meeting quiz. If you don't want to turn every talk or session into a quiz or prize opportunity, have one award at the end of the week with questions pulled from any of the talks during the week. This way there is less prizes and time spend quizzing, and people have to be on their toes every day.
- Play games - It's important to find the right balance between an interesting safety topic and a fruitful conversation, but where applicable and tasteful, use games to create engagement for your safety topics. Similar to giving away prizes and quizzes, games are always fun and create good engagement.
- Use tangible examples - Theory is important to safety, but theory can be dry, and make a potentially interesting safety topic feel boring. To jazz up any safety topic, include some real-world examples and move around the physical world using physical objects to improve interest.
- Get feedback - Get honest feedback from people involved in safety activities about what they like and don't like. Ask them specific questions like "what would make these safety briefings more interesting?" to get good and honest feedback.
Hopefully these approaches help you to see how any safety topic can be made more interesting and more fun when approached in an interesting way.
Although it's typically the context and content of the safety topic which makes it interesting, we will cover some of the more typically interesting safety topics below in case you're not too keen in incorporating any of the above strategies.
Some of the more interesting safety topics
As we have somewhat proven above, no safety topic is inherently interesting, so you can't rely solely on a topic to create interest. It's also not a given that a simple safety topic is not an interesting one. Some of the most interesting safety topics are the ones which seem obvious - because they are the things people do and think about every day. They can relate to them best.
In saying all of this, here are some interesting safety topics to give you some ammunition:
- Hand washing guidelines or personal hygiene - This type of safety topic is one which can be overlooked, but it is one of those ones which can be really interesting. Everyone washes their hands or performs personal hygiene (hopefully), so it's easy to make this topic interesting by getting input and insight from everyone.
- Minimising repetitive stress injuries - Some safety topics are interesting because they are big and brash, while others are interesting because they are more subtle. Talking through some of the repetitive stress injuries associated with works is important and interesting, especially to the young people who still feel invincible.
- Common sense safety topics - When you label something common sense, people often listen. Covering the common sense topics is one of the more counterintuitive ways to keep your safety topics interesting.
- Stress - Stress and wellness are becoming more interesting as more people engage and focus on them. Talking about stress at work is interesting because it makes people feel more human, and because stress is so internalised that people often fail to see and feel the stress of others.
- Public protection - Many safety topics are focused on specific activities and are inward facing. Discussing public protection and public safety is a great way to flip the story and help people see the bigger picture.
- Radiation - The silent assassins are often the most interesting. Discussing safety issues like radiation can really get people thinking.
- Risk assessment - Risk assessments are talked about a lot in many industries, but you can invigorate the conversation and make the topic more interesting by focusing on very relevant risk assessments. Walk through what a proper risk assessment looks like for an activity which will take place that day to get people thinking.
- Hot and cold weather safety - The weather is talked about a lot. Everywhere. Discussing how weather extremes influence safety is always interesting and gets people talking.
If you still need some more inspiration, here are some of the best toolbox talk topics you can also use as safety topics.
Although it can be tempting to overlook core safety topics like working at heights and manual handling for more novel activities and processes, it's critical you cover those talks, and cover them often.
How to ensure your topics stay fresh and interesting
One of the main reasons that people are always searching for interesting safety topics and hundreds of different toolbox talk ideas is because safety requires constant reinforcement in both formal and informal settings.
And the other reason that people are always searching for new ideas is because they can't remember what they have talked about, they can't remember which topics were covered in great detail, and they can't apply what was talked about and learned during previous talks.
One of the best ways to avoid these problems is to properly document your safety topics and safety activities using a safety meeting app.
When using a tool like this, you can easily document your talks or activities using a mobile phone or tablet, and all of your records will be easy to view and look back on at any time.
You can even get workers to sign off on their attendance, so you know which people have listened to what topics and more.
Having all of this information at your fingertips makes it much easier to make good and informed decisions about how to keep your safety topics interesting.
As we have re-iterated throughout this article, the most important aspect of any safety meeting, talk or activity is that there is an improved safety outcome.
This should always be the focus of every new safety initiative.
But as we know, making things more interesting and engaging for people often leads to better outcomes.
I hope you have got some good new ideas for interesting safety topics from this article, and can begin to apply them to your workplace.
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