How To Use Your Break Room To Engage Employees In Safety

Company breakrooms were designed for people to eat and socialize in. So, most of the time, we avoid thinking about work while in there and instead discuss things that will help relieve our stress.

However, we are missing out on a great opportunity to improve and increase employee engagement that will help make your job as a safety manager easier!

And no, you won’t have to disrupt meal schedules to do this. This initiative will only take small pieces of your time and can help you see big results. Let’s discuss some simple ways to do this.

Use Posters and Table Tents

Putting posters up in the break room is a great way to capture people’s attention and to help keep safety top of mind. You may think it won’t have much impact, but because employees will see the content daily, it will definitely stick in their minds and hopefully become instinctual for them. This will greatly contribute to the development of a good safety culture which is exactly what we are hoping to build! Just make sure that you change the posters periodically so people don’t get tired of seeing the same thing.

Table tents are my personal favorites because they are very effective and right there in people’s faces. They can easily grab it and read it after they eat. In my personal experience, most of the employees do reach out and read it.

Post Mission Statements and Company Values

Most break rooms do have the company mission and vision statements posted on their walls. This is good because safety is also often included in these. But if it isn’t, you might want to talk to the management team and ask them to add it so that people frequenting the break room will see it.

Put in a Binder Full of JHAs and SOPs

These types of documents aren’t usually available to the public and that is not how it should be! You want employees to know the JHA and SOPs, which is why printing them out, putting them in a binder, and allocating a specific location where it can be read by others is a great way to engage others.

Hangout and Socialize

Aside from documents that you can put out, nothing beats the good old traditional form of engagement-personal communication! So take time to hang out in the break room with other employees and ask them for feedback about the company, what they think about the current safety policies, what they think can be added or improved, ask them to participate in surveys, and so on. Paying for a meal while you socialize with them can also help build a community of trust and may encourage them to speak their minds more freely.

Playing games in the break room is also a great way to engage employees. You can even incentivize joining in the fun by giving out prizes!

Take Action

These are just a few ways you can use the company break room as a space for employee engagement. Engagement may start out slow, but if you’re patient and consistently work at it, it will absolutely contribute to the development of a great safety culture!

How To Use Your Break Room To Engage Employees In Safety

Safety Brye: [00:00:00] Where do you eat your lunch? Do you take the time to actually leave the office and go somewhere, or do you turn your desktop into a diner? Now, if you were doing either one of these things, you could actually be missing an excellent opportunity to build employee engagement in your safety program. Let me explain.

Hey there, safety friends. Welcome to the Safety Geek Podcast. I'm Brye Sargent CSP and 20 year Safety Professional. After spending years training safety leaders across the globe for a large corporation and creating safety programs from the ground up over and over again, I am now sharing my processes and strategies with you.

At the Safety Geek, you will learn how to manage an effective safety program that increases your management support, and employee engagement, all the while helping you elevate your position

[00:01:00] and move up in your career. If you're ready to step into the role of a safety influencer and leader, you're in the right place.

Let's get to it.

Hello. Hello. Hello, my safety friends. So, no, no, no. I am not taking away your lunch break. I could already hear you thinking that just by this title, just by my intro, so don't worry about that. I'm not forcing you to have a working lunch. Okay. But doing it every so often is not that bad of an idea. But today what I wanna talk about is all the ways that you can turn your employee break room into an employee engagement engine.

Break rooms are the place that most people walk in and out of all day long, and then a couple of times a day, there's like a dedicated audience there cuz there's a huge gathering of people. So let's turn this employee break room into some strategic engagement for

[00:02:00] you and your safety program. So I have several tips for you today that you should actually have in your break room.

And if you don't, then you can add them in there. And some of them are different things that you can do as well. So let's start off. The first one is posters and table tents. So, you know, there's always safety posters out there and I know like a poster is never gonna change anybody's mind or change anybody's behavior, but lack of posters does. Lack of safety posters does change your culture in a negative way.

So you definitely wanna have safety posters up there and you wanna change them frequently. You don't wanna have the same poster cuz an ignored poster or one that's been up there for months on end doesn't do you any good either. So I like to change my posters every couple of weeks. I'm a huge fan of table tents because everybody's just sitting at the break room table and after they get done eating, what are they gonna do? They're gonna flip through the table tent, just like we do

[00:03:00] in restaurants. How many times have you grabbed that ZIO or whatever table tent just to flip through it while you're sitting there waiting for your meal at a restaurant, your employees will do the same thing. So table tents are great ways to communicate information.

I used to actually use them to post, uh, the status of our goals. And put our goals in there so that way they always knew what our five goals were for the year, right? But you wanna change them often. You wanna update them frequently, right? Next one is mission statements and values. So your company should have a mission statement, most companies do, but then you might wanna have safety values up there as well, or values of the organization.

Hopefully safety is included in both of those. If not, that's a whole another issue. You might wanna start influencing your management team to change that or to include it into the mission statement. I will tell you that is one of the strongest indicators of a

[00:04:00] safety culture. Whenever I am looking at an organization or maybe I'm looking to work for an organization, if safety is not included in that mission statement or values, then they obviously don't value it.

Influencing that change is huge and that will actually help your employee morale and help your employee turnover as well. But regardless, both of these should be posted in the break room. They will be static. They won't change because they'll be there frequently, but they should be kept clean and they should be kept in good condition.

And you show value to the mission statement and values, then the people that are reading it will treat it the way that it should be treated. I generally like to keep them framed and in a nice area and clean. It's not just a piece of paper tacked to the wall and something shown that we have value of our mission statement and everybody's expected to know it. It's really great when you actually get people that

[00:05:00] know the mission statement or that they can repeat it as well as the executives can. Right. Number three is your JHAs or your SOPs. So a lot of times our JHAs and our SOPs end up stuck in a computerized folder or maybe in a binder in your office.

They're not readily accessible to employees, but employees are expected to follow them. So I truly believe that they should be printed and kept in a binder in the break room that employees can just grab and read. Now you can keep your main ones in your digital folder. You can keep your main ones in your executive offices, whatever you wanna do.

But employees should have access to these things. And generally in the break room, we also have our SDSs too, but people rarely think about putting our JHAs or SOPs in there. And we really need them in there too. And I can't tell you how many times I've walked into break rooms and saw people actually reading the JHAs. I don't have enough fingers to

[00:06:00] count. Because they just wanna review it. And, and a lot of times what'll happen is they'll see somebody else doing something wrong, and then they just wanna verify that they were doing it wrong or the right way to do something. And if you have that readily available to them, it's a great way to communicate the safe work practices within your organization.

And JHAs are typically safety related, but SOPs are safety, quality, efficiency related. So it, it could, it's an overall company benefit. All right. Already talked about SDSs. They should be in there as well. What I like to do is my SDS book would be all of the chemicals within the workplace, like every chemical that we have.

Unless you're working in an organization that has, you know, a lot of chemicals, or you might just put the kiosk, or if you have the phone call number, you could do that. But having some way for them to access the SDSs, I know that like that's a hot button with

[00:07:00] OSHA, so them walking into your break room and seeing a kiosk where you can look up an SDS is pretty amazing.

And um, it's also a great way that you can incentivize that. Like you can have like raffles look up this SDS and give me the first aid measures and pop it in this box and we draw a winner once a week or something like that, It's always a great way to get them used to looking up SDSs, which is what OSHA will ask them to do when they come in.

Having that readily available kind of builds the culture of safety within your organization. Another great engagement thing that you should have in your break room is hazard reporting and feedback. Feedback being more important than the way that you report hazard. So what I talk about in Safety Management Academy is always having three or four different ways for employees to report hazards.

So having one within the break room is definitely important. You just have to make sure you're checking it on a regular basis, whether it's a board that they write on or a box that they put something in, just make sure you're checking it on a regular basis. But more importantly, you can use the

[00:08:00] break room to provide feedback to the person that reported the hazard. So what you can do is put, like this hazard was reported and this is what we did about it. This hazard is reported. This is what we're currently working on and what is expected to happen, and it will be done by this date. So having like a corkboard or something like that where you can just go in and update the hazards on a weekly basis and give that feedback back to employees, that is a great way to get them actually reporting more hazards cuz they see that you're acting on it, it builds engagement because they see that you're acting on it and um, it's a great communication tool as well.

And you know the wall space in your break room should just be taken up by safety stuff at this point, cuz we already got posters, we got mission statements, we got hazard reporting, we got everything up there. So the next thing that I think you should have in your break room if you can do it, this one I know not everybody can do, is having some sort of motion posters. So what we would

[00:09:00] do is put a monitor up in the break rooms that you could get a subscription to a service that actually changes what is on that monitor on a regular basis. So like it loops different posters and different information on that monitor. So it might do weather and sports scores and just generic posters or very safe posters or quality posters or something like that.

But it's a moving monitor. Or think about like a PowerPoint where the slides change every 20 or 30 seconds. That is one way to quickly communicate things to people, especially if you have information that changes on a regular basis. It's very easy to update the PowerPoint and just send it to the monitor more.

It's much easier than actually going and changing a physical poster. So we would do that. It's just, it can become complacent just because you have this monitor that's constantly moving. Eventually people stop paying attention to it. This is why those services add in the weather and the sports scores,

[00:10:00] because that gets people watching it. Or news headlines too, right? So when you do it with just a PowerPoint yourself, you have to come up with ways to get people to watch it. So we used to incentivize it, kind of like a Where's Waldo type of thing and we would hide something in there. And if you found it, you got your name and a hat and, and we would incentivize it to get people to watch the change in the posters.

But the services that are out there, they do a much better job of it if your company invests in that, where it does add in the news headlines and the sports and the weather and all of that. So I think that's really good. Now, all of these things are things that should just be in your break room. So they're kind of like passive engagement opportunities, right?

So they're just there, like I said, taking up all the wall space. But there are other things that you can do within the break room as as well, that help build engagement. So you can actually use this break room to do your small engagement and inclusion practices where last episode we talked about including them in policy

[00:11:00] reviews or document reviews, or JHA reviews, things like that. That's where you can easily grab an employee, sit down with them, have them read the policy, get their feedback on it. And then move on from there. You can also use the break room to kind of survey employees, hang out in the break room with a survey and say, Hey, can you fill this out for me? I typically would do that, not during lunch hours.

I would do that when you see people coming in and out, cuz they typically have a little bit more time when you are stopping people in their lunch hour, you really don't want them to feel forced to do something when they're actually not on the clock at that time as well. So surveying people as they come and go.

And a lot of times what people do is they'll put like a survey kiosk in the break room as well. That works great, but if you don't have the one, so. Here's the thing, there's a survey kiosk out there. You'll see it in TSA all the time where it's just smiley faces. So you change the

[00:12:00] question and then you have the smiley faces. That's great for like a passive survey in your break room or outside your training rooms and things like that. As people are walking once a day, they answer the question right. The problem is, is when it's not monitored, you can have somebody answering it multiple times and you would never know. So that's why I like to just take an iPad and go one-on-one and do the survey.

And that way it's anonymous because they're not putting in their name. But I'm not getting multiple entries from the same person because I am controlling who I give the iPad to. So that's one thing that you can do in the break room. The other thing is that like, let's say that you do have hazards being reported or you've noticed issues or you are like looking at trending and you've seen like a really high spike in back injuries or something like that, you can hang out in the break room and grab employees and have discussions with them and say, look, we've seen this.

I'd love to talk to you about it. And just ask them, interview them, and ask them some questions about, you know, we're just in those starting stages. We're trying to figure out what to do about

[00:13:00] this. We want your opinion. It's a great way to build engagement. It's a great use of your break room as well. And then what happens is as you're talking to one employee, everybody's like, what are you talking to them about?

It's like, Hey, I'll come talk to you too. You know? And you can get a whole bunch of feedback that way as well. Now during the actual lunch hours, there are things that you can do to engage them as well. And what I like to do is like a weekly community event where once a week you do something and that way they start looking forward to it.

So you can do like a lunch and learn and you're actually like teaching them something and maybe you give 'em a punch card. If they attend the five minute session and they attend five of them, they get, I don't know, a vending coupon or something like that. You can play games, which I know I've talked about before, doing like a forklift rodeo with the little RV, remote control forklifts or something like that. Um, I've done puzzles, I've done paper dolls with PPE. I've done the

[00:14:00] SDSs of like, look up an SDS and get your, your name in the hat. You do different games like that. The whole idea is like every week you do some sort of little engagement activity within your break room, and it just becomes this weekly community event that everybody looks forward to.

So those are the ideas that I have for you about how you can turn your break room into an employee engagement engine, and I hope that it gives you some ideas to try and where you see that this break room then becomes an opportunity for you to reach out and get more employees involved and increase your inclusion and your collaboration within your program.

And when you do these things consistently over time, it does change your culture. And they will actually start to give you ideas on the weekly events and things that you can be doing, which is really great. And then the next step from there is they may

[00:15:00] actually lead those community events themselves. So let's say you wanted to do the RV forklift truck thing. You just say, Hey, I need somebody to lead it next week, will you do that? And then you have employees leading those events, and then it's even better. So that's when you know that you've actually done it, that you've actually influenced the change within your organization when you start seeing people giving you ideas and then participating on their break to play a game with other employees.

Anyway, that's what I got for you this week, my safety friends. I will chat with you again soon. Bye for now.

Hey, if you're just getting started in safety or you've been at this for a while and are hitting a roadblock, then I wanna invite you to check out Safety Management Academy. This is my in-depth online course that not only teaches you the processes and strategies of an

[00:16:00] effective safety management program, but how to entwine management support, and employee participation throughout your processes.

Are you ready to finally understand exactly what you should be doing and ditch that safety police hat forever? Then you have got to join me and your fellows Safety Scholars over at Safety Management Academy, just go to to learn more and to get started. That's and I will see you in our next students only live session.

Bye for now.

Highlights From This Episode:

  • Employee Engagement Is One Of The Keys To The Success Of Safety Programs
  • Why Break Room Is A Great Place For Safety Engagement
  • How To Turn Your Break Room Into An Employee Engagement Engine
  • What Are The Employee Engagement Ideas In The Break Room

Links Mentioned:


I hope this gives you some ideas of small way to improve employee engagement! When you do these things consistently, the company culture will begin to change. Employees may even start giving you ideas for weekly events or be inspired to lead these initiatives themselves. That’s when you know, you’ve truly boosted engagement in the workplace!

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Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)!  I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience.  Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world.   I would love to help you too.

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