Setting Up Safety and Health Committees

Setting Up a Joint Labor / Management Safety and Health Committee

Currently there are many different safety and health committees being developed. There are several ways to implement a safety and health program. When developing a safety and health program numerous elements must be considered prior to the design of that program. Review the following and evaluate if your committee has the foundation for success. The IAMAW Safety and Health Department can help you get on the right track. If you need assistance or training contact the Safety and Health Department at (301) 967-4704 or see IAM C.R.E.S.T. on this site.

Operations vary in:

  • Size;
  • Operations of business;
  • Workforce structure;
  • Process management;
  • Corporate policy;
  • Resources committed;

Some other considerations necessary for an effective safety and health committee prior to implementation:

  • Technical knowledge;
  • Program management skills;
  • Knowledge of organizational behavior ;
  • Understanding that safety and health is another tool for business decision making;
  • Understanding that safety and health is not an “add-on” program or simply a requirement for regulatory compliance.

Joint Commitment

In order to have a successful joint labor / management committee we must first start with a joint commitment. Some examples of joint commitments are:

  • Union and Management must be committed at all levels to pursue a workplace free of hazards;
  • It is Management’s overall responsibility for implementing policy and procedures;
  • It is the Union’s responsibility to promote safety and health policies and procedure to its members;
  • Union and Management must demonstrate its commitment in many ways to succeed in the Joint Safety and Health process. Resources may vary from money, to personnel, or time.

Key Elements of a Joint and Safety and Health Committee

Every joint labor / management committee has key elements and components within them. The key elements for a joint labor / management committee are:

  • Organizational Structure;
  • Communications;
  • Training;
  • Point Involvement;
  • Organizational and Process Techniques;
  • Problem Solving.

First Key Element – Organizational Structure

One of the most important elements of a safety and health program is its organizational structure. These are some suggestions to put your organizational structure together and this structure may contain other components, but the basics are:

  • Written Plan – Should contain the goals, objectives, structure, procedure for processing issues and a timetable for accomplishing them.
  • Safety and Health Committee – This committee should represent all various organizations needed to coordinate any revisions being made, safety, medical, union, management, etc.
  • Employee Involvement – This is one of the most vital components of the organizational structure. No one knows the jobs better than the workers themselves. Worker input must be solicited.
  • Management Responsibility – Overall responsibility for coordinating the program and addressing day-to-day business. This person should also have full authority and support of executive leadership decisions and implementing recommendations by the committee.
  • Management Commitment – This is essential in the whole safety and health process. Management must have resources available in this process. These resources may vary from money to personnel to time. Management must demonstrate its commitment in many ways to succeed in the safety and health process. Management must be committed from the top down.
  • Union Responsibility – This is to promote safety and health policies and procedures to their membership. Must have full authority and support of union leadership to make decision and implementing recommendations by the committee.
  • Union Commitment – The union must demonstrate its commitment in many ways to succeed in the safety and health process. The union must be committed from the top of their organization down.

Second Key Element – Communications

All parties involved with the safety and health process must work cooperatively to be successful in the various tasks involved. Communication is key to a successful safety and health program. Some examples of communication that are essential are between committee members and workers, management and union, engineering, maintenance, medical operations, safety and health and many other involved in the day-to-day implementation of safety and health issues. Committee minutes should be posted and made available for employee review. The minutes are an intricate part of the safety committee meeting and communications. They are used as a tool to track action items and their closure dates.

Third Key Element – Training

The needs for training are many and should be varied to accomplish those needs. Employees should all understand the basic safety and health principles. Safety and health committee members from all departments should have basic knowledge in many different areas. Training is mandatory in accomplishing your goals.

The Fourth Key Element – Labor / Management Safety and Health Committee

Look at Joint Labor / Management Safety and Health Committees (task forces, teams, etc.), as a mechanism for unions and management to successfully implement a safety and health program. Joint safety and health committees can be structured and learn to work well by considering the following issues.

  • Effective safety and health committees are joint labor -management committees.
  • Safety and health changes can only occur with the involvement of all those affected, which includes workers, their union representatives and all levels of management. When creating joint committees three (3) aspects of the committee need to be considered: Committee structure, Committee functions, and Committee process.

Committee structure

Committee Structure refers to how the committee will be put together. Considerations include:

  • Who will be on the committee?
  • How are members selected?
  • Why are members selected?
  • How long will members serve?
  • How will members be compensated?
  • Where does the committee fit within the organization?
  • Committee meetings – how often, how long?
  • What resources are available to the committee?
  • What training will committee members have or receive?
  • Will training be on-going?

Committee functions

Committee functions vary widely from organization to organization and within organizations. Typical functions might include:

  • Designing and conducting safety and health surveys;
  • Providing safety and health awareness training for employees and supervisors;
  • Periodic review of injury data;
  • Conducting safety and health job analyses;
  • Reviewing proposed tool and equipment purchases, workstation and job redesigns;
  • Recommending safety and health changes or solutions to problems;
  • Communicating with employees;
  • Safety Program Evaluation (cost justification: productivity, safety and comfort).

Committee process

Committee process issues relate to how the committee will operate internally. Some of these issues are:

  • Will ground rules be set for the committee;
  • How is the agenda set?
  • Who chairs the meeting?
  • Will “official” notes be taken; what will be done with them?
  • Communicating with constituencies;
  • What decision-making process will be used?
  • What should be the tone of operation of the committee?
  • Is there access to necessary information, resources and people?
  • How will implementation of decisions be accomplished? (Setting time lines, assigning individual accountability)

Fifth Key Element – Organizational And Process Techniques

Like any committee, they will function more efficiently and smoothly by adopting some organizational and process techniques :

(1) Each meeting should have a Chair to get the business done; a Recorder to make sure discussion and decisions are retained and available for use by the committee; and a Facilitator to monitor and correct, if necessary how the committee members work together.

(2) Process techniques such as an agreed upon overall problem-solving approach, use of charting of information, use of brainstorming to generate solutions to problems, use of consensus decision-making, and the setting of time lines and assignment of individual accountability when decisions to act are made.

Sixth Key Element – An Example of a Problem Solving Process

There are many different process structures used to address safety and health related complaints, injuries or illnesses. The reason there are so many is because places of business differ and so will their problem addressing structure.

The following is an example of one structure that will address, investigate and try to determine the causes of complaints, injuries or illnesses.

1. A complaint, injury or illness may start this process.

2. All parties pertaining to a joint safety and health committee are contacted and told of said complaint.

3. A joint investigation is conducted:

a) You will first want to interview the employee who was injured or initiated the complaint;

b) Try to establish if the employee knows how they were injured. Obtain a full description of what has happened up to the current date;

c) Ask employee if they might have any recommendations or solutions to this problem;

d) Be sure to interview co-workers and / or the department supervisor who may have knowledge of what occurred.

4. Take complaint to the safety and health committee for further investigation and identification of the problem.

a) Present to Committee all reports, findings and interviews;

b) Provide Committee with access to all records, surveys, job analysis and any other data pertaining to the complaint, injury or illness and thoroughly review all material;

c) Identify the problem.

5. After the problem is identified, the committee should try to determine the reason for this problem, if any.

6. The Joint Committee should determine corrective actions that are possible and select one. Remember to get workers’ input on any changes that may be made to their jobs.

7. The investigators of this problem should review everything with the employee and their respective management.

8. Implementation of corrective action should take place.

9. The key is to follow-up after any change has been made and to monitor the progress with the employee and management of that department. Also, you need to keep the rest of the Committee aware of all changes.

Safety and Health Program Standards

Key components of a safety and health program are identified in these documents are;

  • Top Management Committee – Use a team approach that involves all levels of the organization and the union. Adopt a policy that gives safety and health priority equal to production. This policy should be operational at the worker level on a daily basis. Managers, supervisors, employees and others must know of this policy and their responsibilities for its implementation, and be held accountable. Authority and resources must be available.
  • A Written Program – The written safety and health program should be issued by top management in consultation with the union. It needs to outline goals and objectives and the methods for achieving then. Feasible implementation data should be established. All personnel should be made aware of the program and have access to it.
  • Employee Involvement – At a minimum involvement should include: a complaint or suggestion procedure; effective procedures for prompt and accurate reporting of signs and symptoms of safety and health related injuries; and trained joint committees that receive information on hazards, analyze those hazards, conduct job analyses, and make recommendations on solutions.
  • Regular Program Review and Evaluation – Top management and the union should develop procedures for monitoring and evaluation programs toward program goals. Periodic (semi-annual) assessments of program success should be made. Specific evaluation techniques to consider include: injury rate analysis for trends; surveys; before/after assessments where changes are made; and on-going and centralized documentation of safety and health activities. Periodic progress reports should be shared with all personnel. On-going re-evaluation of goals, objectives, and implementation performance should be conducted with results reported.