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Tired of arguing the case for Safety in EHS Meetings?

July 29, 2014

Delegation ISQEM

How many times have you felt that you are at loggerheads in EHS meetings with your management on safety issues?  It seems that you are constantly arguing the reasons for safety, yet people are still not seeing the big picture.

First of all you need to understand that human beings see things differently.  If you asked 10 persons to define the risk of climbing a 3 meter ladder, the answers will be different; this is due to people’s individual risk tolerance levels.  The same goes when we are discussing safety in an EHS meeting, not everyone will get to see the same picture or understand why it is so important.

So what can you do to make things easier in your EHS meetings?

Lobby and Communicate.   A simple yet often forgotten aspect of successful meetings is lobbying.  Sometimes you will need to rally support before you approach a subject in a meeting.  This is extremely important in the case of recommending or promoting changes in EHS management systems or items that might incur major investment. Remember early communication is the key to success in any meeting.

Remind People.  At times you will need to remind people of the objectives of the EHS meeting and why the attendees are there.   People need to be clear about the purpose of the meeting and that their role is to provide input on behalf of the whole company, not just their own work environment.

Meeting Protocols.  Good meeting room practices can help diffuse disputes or arguments. All members of an EHS meeting must be given the time to say what they want and ask questions. There must also be a clear decision-making protocol, so that you can reach an agreement to adopt safety practices or ideas.

Establish Meeting Standards of BehaviourIt is important how meetings are run in terms of behaviours and attitudes.  EHS meetings can at times get out of control, especially if turns into a personal attack or when questioning people’s ability.  Therefore you need to make the meeting constructive and avoid negative or personal arguments.

Use External Speakers in Meetings.   It’s surprising what difference it can make when someone from outside your organisation talks about how EHS changes have improved their company.  The external speaker approach can be highly beneficial as people tend to listen, associate their own issues and raise questions on suitable solutions.

The Agenda.  Try to keep your EHS meeting focused on real issues that need to be addressed.  Quite often EHS meetings turn into a presentation of statistics, PowerPoint slides and photos of unsafe practices, with very little constructive discussion.  You need to make sure that your meetings target areas for improvement and prioritize what is needed to be done.  It is pointless trying to discuss 101 issues as people will just switch off.

Final Comment:

EHS meetings can be a great management tool for change, yet if mismanaged they can turn out be nothing but a waste of people’s time.  So  next time you attend a meeting  take a step back and have a real hard look at what is happening.  If the meeting is not working then it’s up to you to raise the issue and recommend changes to other meeting members.


  1. When you are discussing important topics with a group concerning environmental health and safety people can get off topic and the discussion becomes watered down. I like the advice this article gives. It would help in controlling a group, so they soak up information that can potentially save capital, resources and lives.

  2. The advice is very practical and down to earth.

  3. Gareth Jones. permalink

    Yep, been there !!!! Need to remind people why we are here and we are representing the whole company. Also people must learn not to take things personal all decisions are for the greater good.
    Not sure we will ever learn, like this article says we need to keep reminding constantly.

    Remind and revise (Military teaching).

    Good honest article.

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