Why Safety Moments Matter

By Del Stevens
Last updated: January 31, 2024
Key Takeaways

Safety moments encourage workers to focus their attention on the hazards around them.

My wife works some pretty anti-social hours. Every third or fourth day of her working week, she gets up at four in the morning and drives about 20 miles to work.


I get sucked into this reduced sleep schedule right alongside her. I get up when I hear her alarm blaring, then I shuffle around for a while, make a pot of coffee, and pretend that I’m not going to hop back in bed the second she pulls out of the driveway.

In the winter, I’ve got another early morning job. Once I’ve got the coffee going, I have to step outside and scrape the frost off her car before she heads out.


I don’t do this because she can’t clear the frost herself – she’s perfectly capable of doing so. I do it because I know she won’t. It’s too cold for her to stand there and scrape the glass clean, even with the all-in-one scraper-mitten combo I bought her last year. She also finds it too time-consuming. The way she sees it, those five minutes of scraping might make her late for work because if the weather is cold enough to cover her car in frost, then it’s cold enough to leave icy patches on the road, which will result in heavier, slower traffic.

So, I brave the frigid morning air and scrape with all the gusto I can muster. Because I worry that, otherwise, she might hit the road peering through a miniature porthole of barely defrosted ice where her windshield should be.

After reading that, you might be worried too. Perhaps you agree with me that driving 20 miles while “port-holing” is likely to end badly. Yet at the same time, you might be guilty of doing something similar – driving on a dark, chilly night hoping that the antifreeze and windshield will let you see the road better in just a few minutes.

Most of us have our own stories of shortcuts and hurry-ups. And if you don’t, all you need to do is take a trip to your local emergency room on any given weekday afternoon. You almost certainly will encounter one or two people who are there because they just needed to make one quick cut but their safety gloves were ten steps away and they didn’t want to bother.

A good friend of mine who has worked construction for most of his life is 80 percent deaf as a direct result of this exact behavior. He just kept working while the noise reverberated around him. The whole time, he had a set of heavy duty hearing protectors – safely tucked away in his truck.


Taking small risks like this seems to be part of human nature. Doing things faster, easier, and lazier is often more attractive than doing it safely – though we tend to change our minds about that after we’ve been hurt.

So, how do we put a stop to this? What can we do to encourage people to do the job safely every single time?

This is where safety moments come in. A safety moment puts on the steps that workers are tempted to skip. It highlights to everyone on the team that, deep down, we all have the same goal: to finish the workday in the same healthy state we were at the start of the shift.

What Is a Safety Moment?

A safety moment really is little more than a moment – just five minutes out of your day or at the start of a meeting where you and your team can discuss safe behaviors and practices.

In fact, the intro to this article was a safety moment in itself: a short description of an unsafe practice that is routinely encountered, followed a solution that ensures the safety of the people involved.


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The 3 T’s of Safety Moments

A good safety moment has three elements. It’s timely, topical, and to the point.


Timely simply means that it must be delivered at an appropriate time. In most cases, that will be just before we begin the relevant activity.

Discussing ladder safety the moment before we need to check and change lightbulbs? That’s precisely when you need to be reminded of the three points of contact rule.

Going over the importance of defrosting your windshield in the middle of June? Maybe put a pin in that one until it gets colder.


Making it topical means that the subject matter should be relevant to the task and the environment at hand.

I recently witnessed someone lead a safety moment on the dangers posed by gangs in downtown Houston. Maybe that would be relevant to EMTs who might find themselves in a rough part of town or lone workers heading out on service calls by themselves. Only, this safety moment was delivered to a group of people who were about to begin a series of office moves.

Were they going to encounter any gang members in the office parking lot? Unlikely. They would have been better served by a discussion of the actual hazards they were about to encounter, like the dangers of overloading crates or a refresher on safe lifting techniques.

To the Point

Finally, safety moments need to get to the point. Remember, it’s meant to be a tight five. But all too often, the safety moment turns into a safety three-quarters-of-an-hour.

There’s a reason it’s so brief, and it’s not just so you can send everyone back to work sooner. It’s because you’re trying to direct everyone’s attention to one important thing – a key message, an essential step in the safe work process, a hazard that’s easy to overlook.

Spend too much time meandering from topic to topic and the main point will get lost. Drag out the point you’re trying to make and you’ll lose everyone’s attention.

If your team’s eyes start to glaze over at the 20 minute mark, the whole thing is counterproductive. Keep it short and breezy and stick to the main point you want to cover.

How Should a Safety Moment Be Delivered?

As a long-time deliverer of safety moments, I can tell you that you’ll be filled with inspiration for the first seven to ten days in a new work environment. Coffee balanced on the photocopier, texting while walking, speeding through the parking lot – you’ll witness all sorts of things that make perfect subject matter for a safety moment.

By week three or so, the ideas aren’t as easy to come by. You’ve covered the basics. You’ve covered the big stuff. You’ve covered the few one-off hazards you noticed. Now, you’re racking your brain to figure out what other safety topic is worthy of discussion – and is both timely and topical.

But don’t worry, you’re not left to fend for yourself. Your local accident book is always full of great material for safety moments. Set yourself a target of trying to reduce the most common incidents involving your team and let that guide your topic choices.

You can also poke around the topics on this site. Not everything will be perfectly relevant, but you’ll find plenty that can be tweaked and tailored to help you keep your people safe.

Other than that, it’s just a matter of being observant. Remember, people tend to gravitate to shortcuts and tricks for cutting corners. If you pick up on these habits, you can plan a safety moment designed to help adjust them.

Nip Unsafe Shortcuts in the Bud

The emergency room is full of people who wanted to work a bit more quickly than the safe process allowed for. A timely, topical, and to-the-point safety moment could have influenced their behavior and saved them from an easily avoidable injury.

You care about your team and don’t want any of them to get hurt, so take the time to share some critical safety information before they get to work. It only takes a moment to protect them from harm.

Ready to learn more? Check out our free webinar, The Coach in Your Corner, Not the Boss Over Your Shoulder: Injury Prevention Monitoring in the Workplace!

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Written by Del Stevens

Del Stevens
Del Stevens is an independent consultant engaged in training and education in a wide range of disciplines. With an international client list in industries as diverse as the military, government, oil and gas and, most recently, the health sector, there is habitually more work than time. Despite this, Del writes daily, both professionally and for amusement, and has the pleasure of being published online and in print. Much older than he looks, Del’s favorite things are hugs with his family.

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