For Michiganders, the slogan “safety first” conjures up images of assembly lines and industrial trade workers. But when General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra addressed workplace safety at an event my team recently managed, she focused on office workers like herself.
Barra told a story about how she was walking with a colleague at GM’s world headquarters, holding a laptop and cellphone in one hand, and coffee cup in the other. As the pair approached a stairway, the colleague reached out to stop Barra from taking the first step. He chided her for what he said was an unnecessary risk—walking down stairs without a free hand to grab the railing if needed.
The experience made her think about other risks she takes on a daily basis, and about whether she does her part to keep her colleagues safe as well. It made me do the same.
Meeting and event managers are “get it done” people. Who among us hasn’t moved furniture, lugged signage or lifted heavy boxes at the drop of a hat?
During an event, adrenaline kicks in and planners seemingly display superhuman strength. But at the end of the day, our bodies give out. We find ourselves face down on the bed in our hotel room, still dressed, cell phone in-hand, name tag poking us in the chest. The first-aid kit we pack for meeting participants’ ends up being used mostly by event staff. Band-Aids, blister pads and aspirin to the rescue.
At Special D Events, we’re pretty good about keeping our team members healthy. At the office, we provide free healthy snacks, and we encourage each other to take brief walks during the day.
On-site, we do our best to make sure everyone takes a break to eat and rest during long days. But, I admit, we have work to do on the safety side. For instance, we need to encourage each other to ask for help when moving boxes or furniture, and take time to locate and use bell carts or dollies.
Since hearing Barra speak, workplace safety has been top of mind for me, and I’ve done some research on how my team can improve. We are taking a planmonitor-review approach based on guidelines from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) (osha.gov/shpguiidelines).
I believe many accidents and injuries are preventable. With a plan-monitor-review approach, hopefully event staff can keep injuries to the minimum (but dreaded) paper cut.
Carol Galle, CMP, is the co-founder and CEO of Special D Events, an experiential business meeting and special event management agency and Detroit destination management co., based in Ferndale. She is a member of the Michigan Meetings + Events Hall of Fame and Editorial Advisory Board.