Safety Run by the Committee? Could it Work?

How do safety committees help?

Safety committees can perform a number of essential functions such as:

  • Accident Investigations
  • Area Safety Inspections
  • Hazard identification, including job hazard analysis
  • Reporting safety problems and recommending corrective action.
  • Communicating safety and health policies and other important information to fellow workers.
  • Assisting in safety training and selecting training materials.
  • Helping to develop a safety suggestion system.
  • Serving as role models for safe attitudes and practices.

This is by no means a complete list.  You can assign more, fewer or different functions to your safety committee, since normally the committee itself participates in selecting its activities. 

Although the overall goal of all safety committees is accident and cost reduction, there are frequently such desirable side effects as increased job satisfaction and morale and decreased absenteeism.

How do they work?  Typically, management and labor each select their own members for a safety committee.  Generally, the committee is composed of an equal number of management personnel and members from the labor side.  There should be enough members to carry out various assigned functions, but not so many that it’s difficult to conduct productive meetings.  All shifts should be represented.  It’s often suggested to have a manager with budgetary authority on the committee so that resources can be more easily allocated and committee recommendations can be implemented more efficiently. 

Once the members have been selected, the committee itself selects a chair and decides on the procedure for periodically rotating the leadership role.  Regular meetings of the whole committee should be scheduled at frequent intervals, no less than once a month, complete with agendas that include planned activities, reports on previous actions and follow-ups.  Meeting minutes should be kept and posted or distributed to all members, other key people and especially to those personally involved with a project. 

How can you ensure success?  The makeup of your committee is as important as structure and goals.  Experts say it’s not enough to select safety committee members based on availability or popularity.  Safety committees require hard work, diligence, interest and knowledge on the part of members.  Characteristics of successful safety committee members include:

  • Commitment to workplace safety.
  • Concern for co-workers.
  • Leadership qualities.
  • Ability to work cooperatively with co-workers and management.

Why it matters….

√   Providing a safe and healthy workplace is a big and important job – one that has      a better chance of success if workers and management work together.

√   Safety committees focus everyone’s attention on safety and provide a key      channel for communication about safety issues between the workforce and     management.

√   Committees provide an ideal way to get employees involved in the safety       program.

√   Organizations with successful safety committees generally have fewer accidents,      lower operating costs, fewer lost workdays and fewer worker’s comp claims.

Some other strategies for a successful committee are:

  • Choosing the right people by making sure every member wants and deserves to be there.
  • Rotating leadership and responsibility of the agenda among members.
  • Avoid making a decision just to get an item off the table.  Stay with issues until you come up with a solution that has a strong chance of succeeding.
  • Admit mistakes – there’s nothing wrong with trial and error.
  • Monitor new policies and procedures to be sure they work.  If they don’t, change them.
  • Assigning individual members specific projects with follow-up responsibility.
  • Make communication with labor, management and committee members a priority.
  • Never forget that the ultimate goal of the committee is a safe and healthy work environment for all.