Team Building: Don’t Forget Health & Safety

See any successful sports team and you will see exactly that, a team. They work together as a unit day in and day out despite having different roles and jobs. Building a successful team requires people to work together even if their personalities clash. Staff events such as team building events can improve results and productivity, but they need to be well prepared for, be safe, and be the right kind of event for your team.

Andrea’s True Story

Andrea was participating in a team building exercise at a performance theater. Members of her team were organized in a circle on the stage. Andrea stationed herself facing the inner circle with her back to the stage edge while other team members were standing at other points on the circle’s perimeter.

The purpose of the exercise was to give team members “a feel” for an actor’s responsibility, stressors, and role in a performance.

With no time for planning or preparation, each team member was asked to share something unique, unknown to fellow team members. Each person entered the center of the circle and shared his/her revelation while performing a movement to illustrate. He/she then returned to the perimeter of the circle while performing the same movement. Team members were asked to focus on each team member’s revelation and movement and to duplicate the acting as a cohesive team, moving in and out of the circle center as a unit. Each member performed individually for about 8 seconds – then performed as a team for about 8 seconds. Without pause, the next team member performed. While listening and watching the performing team member, team members were also trying to figure out what their revelation would be, how they were going to illustrate it, the location of expensive lighting equipment which they had been asked to avoid, and to focus on the actor leading the exercise in order to be “fully engaged”.

As the team’s frenetic movement shifted in to high gear, the circle began to expand. Just as an adjacent team member reached out to warn everyone that they had moved too close to the stage edge, Andrea fell off the stage — all of this happening within a second.

Andrea suffered from several fractures and ultimately left the organization after months of legal and health/financial benefit challenges that took its toll on her, and cost her employer organizational disruption and the loss of a successful, valued employee. The aftermath of Andrea’s accident was in many respects more traumatic than the accident itself. Ten years later, Andrea continues to suffer physically and has not been released to work full time.

Most Common Causes of Teambuilding Injuries

Just because it is a team building day does not mean your staff are immune to the kind of workplace injuries they are at risk from on a day-to-day basis. The Top 10 Causes of Workplace Injuries, according to the Houston Chronicle are as follows:
  • Tiredness and overwork
  • Stress
  • Slips
  • Trips
  • Repetitive actions
  • Lifting
  • Collisions
  • Falling objects
  • Workplace violence
  • Dangerous materials
Being out of the workplace and in a new, exciting environment, many employees will let go of their inhibitions and may forget their health and safety training. This can mean they are less cautious and may over exert themselves on the day. Pushing too hard can mean they are liable to hurt themselves or others.

Design a Team Building Event Suitable for Your Employees/Coworkers

Don’t pick a team building event just because it seems cool or you think it’s going to be fun. There are many strategies and company-focused packages out there which simply do not work and one of the worst is one which will hurt or damage your employees or coworkers. CNBC suggests you follow 10 simple rules for building an all-star team through such an event. They are:
  1. Prepare your team ahead of time
  2. Customize the event
  3. Playground rules – get everyone involved
  4. Match the event to their personalities
  5. No office
  6. Keep it fun
  7. Think out of the box
  8. Build trust
  9. Take some risks
  10.  Add a charitable goal
People fear the unknown. It is possible a few of your coworkers or employees will have heard of the event you have planned, but many will not. By preparing team members in advance and by fitting the event to the team, your collective goals, and not just what you think is cool, will make everyone feel comfortable ahead of time. Indeed, many will be planning ideas and strategies of their own in readiness for the event.

Risk Assessments and Preparation

Preparing your staff in advance has a second major advantage. As well as being ready mentally which is essential to a good day’s teambuilding, you have the opportunity to work with them on health and safety preparation too. This covers all aspects of the day including:
  • Transportation on the Day: Are you travelling from company HQ or are your staff going there independently? It makes more sense as a team to travel together. Driving accidents cost companies over $60 billion a year, so work with a professional coach company to get your staff to and from the event.
  • Check the Weather Forecast: Weather can be unpredictable in some areas, so if you have an outdoor event, which tend to be best, plan carefully for the time of year when you want to have the event. Consider providing weatherproofing such as bringing sunscreen, umbrellas or raincoats, warm clothing for cold conditions, and so on.
  • Be Inclusive: Consider all of your employees, their likes and dislikes, problems and physical impairments. Involve them in safety management and finally, let them have an option to opt for a different activity so they do not feel pressured into doing one thing they may be uncomfortable with.
Andrea’s true story illustrates what can happen when safety and health factors are not assessed and addressed prior to a team building exercise being executed. Those contracting with an organization or individual to facilitate an exercise and/or those leading an exercise have a serious responsibility to ensure the safety of team members and provide members with an opportunity to determine their own ability their own ability to participate, based on any health issues. Safety includes identifying and addressing environmental and activity related hazards to protect team members from witnessing traumatic injuries, which in itself is damaging.
Designing a good risk assessment requires you as an individual or group, to identify all the possible negative outcomes of the event. This includes physical damage to the person, emotional damage, damage to property, legality, financial costs, security, medical issues, allergies, exertion and tiredness, insurance, and so on.
Finally, as well as identifying any negative outcomes and finding solutions, make sure you have an emergency response set up including equipment, first aid trained employees, relevant contacts and a medical kit.
Remember, injuries can and do happen!

At AJO, we love to combine team-building with philanthropy and have staged many successful events for our clients, as well as for causes we support within our community. We invite you to check out our New Jersey partner, Caring Capital and one of our past team-building events.
Post by AJO

Founded on core family values and a commitment to building strong, long-lasting partnerships, AJO approaches its work with confidence and expertise that only comes with over 40 years in the business. Working with companies of all sizes, needs and budgets, AJO develops high-performing teams and global leaders for organizational success.