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Secrets to Safety Committee Success

 

Safety committees are a boon to the workplace—if they’re properly established and managed.

How do you implement a safety committee that works for you and not against you?

How do you create a committee that works to your advantage without generating more complaints rather than solving problems?

To lay the foundation for a successful safety committee, you have to remember your A-B-Cs:

  • Assess the current safety culture and level of management commitment
  • Build an empowered safety committee
  • Commit resources and support to ensure success

The assessment stage includes:

  • Establishing management support
  • Gauging employee support

The building stage includes:

  • Determining the safety committee’s function and goals and how it fits in your organization
  • Providing templates
  • Guiding the formation to meet with management’s expectations
    The commitment stage includes:
  • Communicating the committee’s progress to build support
  • Acknowledging members and their efforts
  • Reporting successes to gain continued support
  • Celebrating successes of the committee and of the organization

Committee Goals

Next, you have to consider goals. Safety committee goals must be significant, but realistic. For example:

  • Reducing accidents
  • Establishing a positive and active safety culture
  • Raising the safety standards to meet certification expectations

Beware setting goals that are so lofty they can’t possibly be met. They may sound good, but they won’t get you where you want to be.

There is a balance to be achieved:

  • The goal must be specific enough to work toward, but not so specific as to reduce morale if it is not met.
  • The goal must be defined enough to be clearly aligned with the company and managerial objectives, but may not necessarily be clearly defined enough to set metrics.

When setting goals, look at what outcomes you want to achieve with the safety committee. Ask managers what they would like to see the safety committee accomplish.

 

Key Elements

To function at an optimum level, safety committees require these key elements:

  • Mission statement. This should be a clear statement that backs the safety committee and addresses what management is looking for and what it is expecting to get out of the committee. It should also give the committee guidelines to meet the requirements of upper management.
  • Defined and clear-cut expectations. The committee needs to know what is expected of them, what results are expected (e.g. how many JSAs? How many machines with LOTO? How many audits)?
  • Guidance. The committee needs ongoing guidance from management to function properly and achieve goals.
  • Regularly scheduled meetings. When meetings are not hit or miss, or getting cancelled all the time, committees are taken more seriously.
  • Sufficient budget. The committee should have access to enough money for cost-effective and realistic recommendations, such as PPE, training, machine guards, etc.
  • Safety education. Specialized training for committee members should be provided (e.g., accident investigation methods, CPR). More knowledge makes the safety committee more effective and more credible.
  • Evaluation. Internal audits of the safety committees help top management follow and understand what the committee is doing. It is a process that evaluates the committee’s success based on expectations.
  • Acknowledgment. The committee should receive recognition for its positive impact on the workplace. Bringing the success of the committee to everyone’s attention makes others want to be part of it.

4 Critical Functions of Safety Committees

Safety committees differ from industry to industry and workplace to workplace. But certain characteristics are common for success.

At a minimum, a safety committee should perform four critical functions for your organization:

1.   Analyze accident investigation reports and determine root causes. The committee is not the judge and jury on accident investigation, but it does serve a fact-finding purpose. It provides an internal depth of discussion of actual and potential accidents and injuries. It serves an awareness role rather than a policing role. To do this safety committees:

  • Get copies of any accident reports
  • Ascertain that the investigation was one of information gathering, not fault finding
  • Determine if accident was preventable
  • Review the root cause of the accident
  • Review corrective actions
  • Assess the type of training/retraining needed

2.   Monitor accidents, incidents, and near misses and look for trends. When gathering data on accidents, incidents, and near misses, the committee indicates categories that need further discussion.

3.   Set annual safety goals and priorities. The committee should develop monthly, quarterly, and annual safety goals. Goals should be specific, measurable, realistic, and attainable. The committee should keep track of and review its goals.

4.   Audit safety training programs. The committee should make a list of federally mandated training programs and another list of company-specific training needs. The committee should check to see that employees have received the needed training.

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