Forming A Safety Committee: Part 2 of 2
In our last blog post, we talked about how to form a safety committee at your company. This group should be responsible for developing and maintaining your company’s safety procedures, including your fall protection plan. It should also be responsible for promoting a safety culture at your company, and for ensuring your compliance with OSHA regulations.
To be successful, any organization must understand its goals and objectives, and must be supported by upper management. In today’s article, we’ll look at some best practices for operating a safety committee, and what your executives can do to support this group and ensure its success.
As we mentioned in our last blog post, one of the main purposes of a safety committee is to give employees an opportunity to provide input on safety concerns. Therefore, it should be a worker-focused group. It should be led by an executive with Team Leadership experience, such as your Safety Director, and should include one or two managers, plus a good cross-section of workers from all company levels and shifts.
Depending on the size of your organization, your working group should have at least three workers, but no more than a dozen. Typically, the smaller the team, the more effective it will be. You shouldn’t form a safety committee just for the sake of having one at your company. The first thing the group should do upon its formation is to craft a mission statement that clearly defines it functions, and an outline of specific member duties.
Measurable and achievable goals and objectives for creating and promoting a safe work environment should be outlined. Both short-term and long-term goals should be set, according to the specific needs of your company, your employees, and the work environments you handle. It also helps to review your goals every few months or so, to see how well you’ve accomplished them.
The full group should meet at least quarterly, if not monthly. It should have clear meeting agendas, and all members should be required to attend all meetings. The meeting should take minutes about the issues discussed, and these minutes should be typed up and distributed to all your employees after the meeting.
Executives must be willing to give the committee the independence it needs to carry out its duties, without interference from upper management. The committee should have the authority to establish and enforce procedures at your company, and to make daily, on-the-spot decisions about how to deal with hazards.
For example, if a member decides that a work area is too hazardous (i.e. the weather is too icy, too rainy, or too windy for rooftop work to proceed), they should have the authority to call off work for that day.
Executives should cooperate with the committee, but not control it. The members shouldn’t have to check with upper management over every decision they make. Executives should accept decisions regarding worker safety, and not try to overrule them.
Again, the primary purpose of this group is to give workers the opportunity to participate in the company’s safety culture. If they get the idea that upper management is “holding the strings,” they will be reluctant to report problems and issues for fear they could be fired or disciplined for doing so. Also, workers will be more reluctant to follow established procedures, especially if they feel that upper management is only using the committee to control them, or to spy on them.
A Full-Time Commitment To Safety
Executives should not see the safety committee as an “extra-curricular activity.” They should give it the funding it needs to do its duties, and give its members time during work hours to conduct inspections, interview workers, and write reports.
If members need additional training (i.e. Competent Person training for fall protection) in order to identify hazards, understand OSHA regulations, and propose proper solutions for work environments, the company should be willing to sponsor their training.
It’s a function of the committee to let upper management know when employees need certain types of equipment (i.e. SRLs or other fall protection systems), or when equipment needs to be replaced. Also, group members should be responsible for identifying when workers need a certain type of training (i.e. fall protection training).
Upper management should work with the committee to ensure that workers get the equipment and training they need. The committee should have the authority to negotiate with safety manufacturers, vendors, and trainers on upper management’s behalf.
Most importantly, everyone, including all executives at your company should be required to follow the procedures established by your committee. When executives are in an area with identified hazards (e.g. on a rooftop), they should be required to use the same equipment (i.e. SRLs, safety harnesses) and follow the same procedures as your workers in that environment.
It should be visible to everyone that upper management is supporting the committee and accepting its recommendations and ideas, not just “taking them under advisement.” (Sending out a company e-newsletter about committee activities can help with this).
When workers know that their concerns are being heard and addressed, and that executives at their company are supporting the committee’s efforts, your workers will be more willing to participate in prescribed practices, because they know their employers are “looking out for them.”
Executives should keep in mind that a safety committee is a long-term investment, which helps to reduce or eliminate accidents at the company’s work sites. Over time, this saves the company money by reducing or eliminating spending on workers’ compensation payments, higher insurance costs, and possible fines for OSHA violations.