It’s been my experience that Safety Committee meetings can play a pivotal role in the effectiveness and success in a company’s health & safety program. However, it’s also been my experience that more often than not, safety committees are not properly run and can actually have a negative impact on the employees involved. A well-run safety committee ensures communication and accountability throughout an organization as it relates to safety. Many companies I’ve worked with have attributed the significant decrease in their compensable losses to the work done by their safety committee. But there is a lot of work that needs to go into building the safety committee before these results are possible……work that many companies do not realize is necessary. In a recent article in Safety & Health magazine, the author identified 7 tips for an effective safety committee. Tips that I think all companies contemplating creating a committee could benefit from.
1. Put progression before perfection at the start When creating a safety committee, begin the process with immediate and long-term goals, but be careful about aiming too high initially (Druley,2017). It’s important that committee members know that their time is not being wasted. The best way to accomplish this is to see results. Goals don’t need to be limited to large reductions in accidents or changes in procedures. They can be a simple as ensuring accident reports are filled out properly or jobsite inspections are thorough enough. These activities with immediate results can get the committee moving in the right direction.
2. Embrace Variety Workplaces consist of employees with varied positions and backgrounds. Ensure your safety committee follows suit by including a mix of your organization’s labor force and management (Druley,2017). I always believe that one of the goals of any safety committee is to find solutions to issues that are unique to your organization. In order to do that, you’ll need input from all areas of the company. A good litmus test to determine if you have the right people on your committee is meeting this criterion: if a question comes up in a committee meeting regarding any activity/process of your company, someone in the room should be able to speak to it.
3. Develop a Curriculum Be prepared to provide training and materials to boost committee members’ knowledge and recognition of workplace safety and health hazards (Druley,2017). Don’t assume because people volunteer to be on a committee that they are in fact a safety professional. The best solutions always come from fully understanding the problem.
4. Plan meetings ahead of time Develop the meeting agendas a few days in advance and distribute them so committee members can prepare (Druley,2017). This includes a clear start and ending time. Everyone in your organization is busy, so the best way to be respectful of people’s time as well as to achieve the most production is to be prepared. Don’t feel the need to overload the agenda either. A 1000-mile journey begins with one single step.
5. Maintain a reasonable rotation among committee members Ideally, the committee will be made up of volunteers rather than appointed or selected member. That dynamic increases the probability of consistent member investment and energy (Druley,2017). Although I believe this is good advice, I also know from experience that just because someone volunteers, doesn’t mean they are a good fit for the committee. Referring to bullet point #2, It’s imperative that the committee is made up of individuals that will be able to speak to all aspects of your company’s operations, not just those who want to participate.
6. Don’t be boring Make it an agenda item. Talk about what we can do to make the meetings more fun and make them better (Druley,2017). Much easier said than done, but I think the point is valid. Meetings in general are typically boring. And when people get bored, they’re usually not productive. Keeping the meetings relevant is a good approach. Don’t overwhelm the committee members and stick to obtainable goals.
7. Occasionally look outward Try to get in touch with other industries and see what they’re doing outside of your field (Druley,2017). Fundamental approaches to eliminating accidents in the work place span across industries. Although the tactics used may differ, the strategies are usually consistent. Benchmarking with other companies, both in and out of your industry, can be very valuable. A fresh look at similar problems can generate great results. It is amazing what you can learn from other committees trying to accomplish the same goals your committee has.
Safety committees can be a great component to an effective health & safety program. But just like anything else, you can only get out of it what you put into it.