12 Monthly Safety Topics to Train All Year Round
Almost two-thirds of surveyed employees feel less than confident about what they would do if faced with an emergency at work. But training can help, and regular safety meetings are especially helpful to engage employees in long-term preparedness efforts.
As a safety leader, your efforts matter on a daily basis to improve safety outcomes overall and prepare the company to weather a crisis. But on the day of a real crisis, the efforts of many individuals will matter much more. The bad news is that only 38% of workers feel strongly that they’d know what to do in the event of an emergency at work, according to the 2022 State of Employee Safety Report. The good news is that employees who participate in safety training are at least 25% more likely to know what to do if an emergency arises.
The best way to ensure safety engagement, keep best practices top of mind, and prepare your people to carry out the emergency response plans you’ve thoughtfully developed is to conduct regular safety training and safety meetings. When you introduce new safety topics or sub-topics at each meeting, you challenge participants to engage with fresh information—rather than risk having them tune out familiar content.
We’ll outline twelve monthly safety topics (and a few national safety observances) that you can use to reinforce best practices and teach your team how to stay safe. These topics cover a range of hazards and safety initiatives that can apply to any business. Whether you work in environmental health and safety (EHS), security, or a related field, you can use these topics to guide weekly or monthly safety meetings or inform the training you assign.
12 Safety Topics for Work
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What is a safety topic?
A safety topic supports comprehensive safety training by guiding a more focused discussion. You can address safety topics with bigger or smaller groups and tailor these discussions to teams’ unique safety concerns. When you hold safety-focused talks regularly on a variety of topics, you support broader preparedness efforts. In this way, you also cultivate an organizational safety culture, making everyone accountable for safety goals.
These safety meetings take on all different shapes and sizes depending on what an organization needs them to achieve. They also take on many names: safety moments, safety talks, toolbox talks, tailgate talks, safety chats, and others. The name you choose matters less than the content and the effectiveness of the meetings themselves. But many organizations choose a name to match the intended tone and help participants feel connected to the regular safety training commitment.
12 Safety Topics for Monthly Meetings
You can organize safety meetings around a structured format with a clear list of procedures or other details to cover. Or you can plan safety talks with a loose structure to facilitate a discussion and challenge team members to think critically about the topic at hand. Remember that you don’t need to fit everything into one meeting; there’s always next week or next month. Sometimes, you just need a topic idea to get the conversation started.
What is the best topic for a safety meeting?
The best safety topic for work is one that supports the following:
- Your emergency preparedness and response readiness
- Employee buy-in for safety initiatives
- Refreshers of less-frequent safety training
- Interest and engagement in efforts that benefit employee well-being as well as the business itself
You’ll find a substantial list below of workplace safety topics for meetings that are adaptable to your company’s identified threats, preparedness priorities, and current safety goals. But you can also develop your own list. What work-related safety topic would make the most significant difference in your team’s awareness and productivity today? How might you build on your team’s growing risk awareness and emergency readiness, one topic after another?
You might decide that everyday ergonomics is the topic for the week that will help lay the base for employee buy-in, engagement, and general well-being. Another week, you might decide to focus on hurricane communications to ensure your people know how to respond when they receive specific messages during a storm. Or you might concentrate on common OSHA violations and ways team members can support compliance.
1. January: Inclement Weather
Inclement weather is defined as any severe or harsh weather condition that makes it unsafe or impractical to travel, commute, or work outdoors. Every region and every business faces weather-related threats and challenges, and what might be normal weather conditions in one region may be dangerous in another. Create an inclement weather policy and best practices based on the regional threats you identify.
- What inclement weather events might disrupt your business operations?
- What should your employees do when inclement weather hits?
- What is your plan when employees cannot safely get to or leave work?
- How and when will you communicate about severe weather with your employees?
Inclement-weather safety tips:
- Plan ahead for how employees will work from home if road conditions are bad.
- Have emergency kits in the office in case people get trapped in the facility.
2. February: Workplace Violence
The CDC defines workplace violence as any “act or threat of violence, ranging from verbal abuse to physical assaults directed toward persons at work or on duty.” Examples include physical assault, robbery, and theft or destruction of private or company property. It can be caused by a coworker, contractor, customer, or former employee, and it can happen anywhere inside or outside the office.
- What are the signs of potential workplace violence?
- Where can your employees hide if violence breaks out in your workplace?
- Who on site would need to be notified about any workplace violence?
- What specific types of workplace violence might your business face?
Workplace violence prevention tips:
- Improve the physical security like lighting and door access of your worksites.
- Offer situational awareness training and tabletop exercises to prepare employees in a low-stress work environment.
3. March: Health and Wellness
Your employees’ health and wellness are as much a matter of workplace safety as preventing violence and responding to natural disasters are. Preventing disease outbreaks, providing ergonomic support, and preventing injuries should all be considered part of your general safety program.
- What is your sick-day policy?
- Do your employees know about proper ergonomics?
- How will your business handle a disease outbreak in your workplace or location?
- How can you support the overall health of employees?
Health and wellness safety tips:
- Walk employees through healthcare coverage options so they know what is available.
- Encourage healthy practices, including good sleep, nutrition, and exercise.
4. April: Natural Disasters
Often sudden and destructive, natural disasters put your people, facilities, and operations at risk. Not to mention, your employees’ families and homes are also at risk when disasters strike. These events vary wildly depending on location, and climate change is increasing their impacts and frequency.
- What natural disasters most commonly affect your area?
- What are your evacuation plans for a disaster at your workplace?
- How will you navigate disaster recovery?
- When and how will you notify employees about predicted or imminent disasters, as well as planned responses?
Natural disaster recovery tips:
- Assign specific people to perform different recovery efforts, including communication.
- Research FEMA resources and support before an incident so you can quickly access support after a disaster.
5. May: Mental Health
Even in the workplace, mental health consists of a person’s social, psychological, and emotional well-being, and it takes into account factors like stress management, decision-making, and thought patterns. Mental health can greatly impact the quality of life, and poor mental health can create lasting detrimental effects if not addressed. As you have conversations with your employees, explore how their mental health fits into your duty of care with active support and a conducive work environment.
- How will you identify and support employees struggling with their mental health?
- What benefits do you have for mental health?
- How can you encourage a good work-life balance?
- What should employees do if they are struggling with their mental health?
Mental health safety tips:
- Encourage employees to take breaks during the day.
- Train managers on how to best support their teams mentally and emotionally.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month
Participate in Mental Health Awareness Month in May by prioritizing your employees’ mental health. Consider offering extra paid time off or hosting events like meditations in the workplace. Explain what mental health support is available and how to access it should employees ever need it.
6. June: PPE and Equipment Safety
Whether it’s helmets, reflective vests, face masks, or fall protection, your employees need the right personal protective equipment (PPE) to stay safe. And training for the proper use of heavy equipment and power tools, whether on the factory floor or in a company vehicle, will prevent workplace injuries and accidents.
- How often do you train employees on how to properly use their PPE, including when and how to replace damaged or worn-out PPE?
- Have there been accidents with heavy machinery or equipment? How could these incidents have been prevented?
- What hazardous materials (e.g., chemicals like radon) or heavy equipment (e.g., forklifts) are your employees working around regularly?
- What protocols should employees follow when working with dangerous equipment? (E.g., lockout tagout (LOTO), electrical safety protocols, ladder safety protocols.)
Workplace equipment safety tips:
- Check out the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s requirements and suggestions for PPE.
- Encourage and reward employees who practice safe behavior and report potential hazards and near misses.
June is National Safety Month
In June, the National Safety Council (NSC) provides a wide range of safety resources to support National Safety Month. You can use these resources to bring health and safety front and center in your day-to-day. It can be as simple as hosting a safety meeting or seminar, or you can go big with a safety contest for employees. No matter how you celebrate, make sure your employees know just how much their safety matters to you and your business.
7. July: Heat Safety
Working in extreme heat, especially in heavy protective gear, can be hazardous for workers. Even before the summer months bring heat waves, you need to commit to heat stress prevention. This is especially true as climate change brings more frequent and severe heat in many areas. As the threat of extreme rises, OSHA is putting together new regulations on heat exposure for workers, and now is the time to train your team on better heat safety procedures. It may save lives.
- Do you have policies in place for extreme heat?
- What are the signs of heat illness?
- Where are your employees most likely to experience heat stress?
- Are there any interior spaces that might pose a heat risk?
Heat safety tips:
- Provide ample water and air-conditioned spaces for employees working in extreme heat.
- Encourage employees to wear breathable fabrics as much as possible.
Check out our full list of heat safety tips.
8. August: Fire Prevention
Nearly all employees have participated in a fire drill at one point or another, but that doesn’t mean you can check fire safety off the list. Structure fires can be very destructive and cause severe harm to people and property alike—especially if employees are ill-prepared to respond. Fire safety awareness calls for regular refreshers, especially when you update procedures and evacuation routes.
- Do all employees know the fire evacuation plan?
- When was the last time your workplace had its fire doors and fire extinguishers checked?
- Are employees practicing good fire safety in the office/facility?
- What are your most significant fire risks, and how can you mitigate potential impacts?
Fire safety tips:
- Run regular fire drills and revise your evacuation plan as needed based on how the exercises go.
- Assign the role of fire warden to someone on staff, and ensure this person is sufficiently empowered to take charge of workplace fire prevention tasks.
9. September: Emergency Preparedness
Emergencies can happen at any time, so advance preparation and constant vigilance are critical to ensure your business is ready to respond. Perform threat assessments to determine the risks you should prioritize. Then develop emergency response plans, and keep your team in the loop with training and safety meetings.
- What emergency plans do you already have, and what plans do you need?
- Who is responsible for communicating with affected employees during an emergency?
- What emergencies are good fits for running drills or tabletop exercises?
- How can you better communicate with your team when there is an emergency?
Emergency preparedness tips:
- Invest in technology like threat intelligence and an alert notification system to make your planning more manageable and more reliable.
- Use a threat matrix to quantify the threats you face and prioritize preparedness efforts.
September is National Preparedness Month
National Preparedness Month is a great time to assess and revise your emergency preparedness plans. Involve your employees by practicing your plans—you can even use it as a team-building opportunity and create emergency kits as a group.
10. October: Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity often gets overlooked in the context of workplace safety, but don’t underestimate the risks to your operations and business continuity. It’s critical to teach your employees good cybersecurity practices and ensure they are set up to protect themselves and your business from cyberattacks.
- What are the signifiers of a phishing scam attempt?
- How will you notify employees or customers if there is a system outage due to a cyberattack?
- What can you do to mitigate the risk of cyberattacks?
- What information might be at risk?
- Conduct cybersecurity awareness training, and teach employees about common tactics such as phishing.
- Ensure all your employees are using strong passwords and two-factor authentication when possible.
- Frequently back up important information, and make sure you are using reputable third-party systems.
- Consider a converged security approach to improve physical and cybersecurity simultaneously.
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month
You can use Cybersecurity Awareness Month to jumpstart your cyber preparedness efforts. Run phishing scam drills and teach your employees how to protect their data. If you don’t already have one, create a cybersecurity response plan so you are ready to mitigate the damage if an attack occurs.
11. November: First Aid
Some emergencies will require professional medical attention, but first aid can address many common workplace injuries. Even when significant emergencies occur, you won’t always have immediate access to first responders or even managers/company leaders, so it’s essential to have people on the ground who can act quickly to respond to injuries and help mitigate harm—even prevent fatalities.
- Do your employees know what hazardous situations—emergency or otherwise—might arise in the workplace?
- How many employees are trained in CPR or first aid?
- Where are first aid supplies stored in the workplace?
- Do employees know how to differentiate between the kinds of injuries that need hospital care and those that do not?
First aid tips:
- Host first aid training for employees and incentivize or even mandate participation.
- Place first aid kits around the office, clearly label them, and keep them stocked.
12. December: Cold Safety
While there is no OSHA standard for cold-weather safety, protecting your employees from cold-weather harm is an aspect of your duty of care. Implement procedures and safety initiatives to protect your team from cold-weather injuries and illnesses, including hypothermia, fall hazards, frostbite, and colds or the flu.
- Who is most at risk of cold-weather injuries or illness?
- What are the signs of hypothermia and frostbite?
- What is the communication plan for extreme cold or winter weather events?
- What resources can you provide to employees working outside in cold weather?
- What hazards exist on the job site that could result in slips, trips, and falls, and how do winter conditions exacerbate these hazards?
Cold-weather safety tips:
- Winterize all offices and worksites for injury prevention and suitable work environments. Make sure sidewalks and parking lots are clear of snow and ice, apply de-icing materials, and supply space heaters or generators.
- Create cold weather kits, especially for employees who might be driving in cold weather.
Next Steps for Safety Engagement
With these safety topics, you can run engaging, relevant safety meetings and inform training that will actually help keep your employees safe all year long. When you make safety a priority and ingrain it into the very culture of your workplace, your employees are much more likely to know just how much you care, and they’ll make safer choices overall.