Address safety in your workplace with a safety committee

The best injury is the one that never happens, but how is this achieved in a work environment? Regardless of the task at hand, safety is everyone’s responsibility from a top-down approach.

“Safety is a team effort and one of the most effective ways to start addressing safety in the workplace is by developing a safety committee,” says Doug Newman, senior risk services consultant at CompManagement.

Smart Business spoke with Newman about some of the key components of a safety committee.

What should companies consider before setting up a safety committee?

Prior to creating a safety committee, gathering management commitment is imperative. The involvement of management in the committee allows committees to secure funding or support to address safety hazards, and their involvement helps committees make more realistic decisions and recommendations.

It is also important for committee members to see that their suggestions have an effect on workplace safety. If the decisions of the committee are deemed too costly or are never used, enthusiasm within the committee may decrease. Management involvement also shows employees that safety is important to management, which can have a positive effect on their own safety values.

How large should a safety committee be and how should it be structured?

Your safety committee team should consist of 10 to 12 members. Take volunteers first and make sure all key areas are represented. Clearly define the purpose and objectives of the team and determine the length of the committee members’ terms, which should be more than six months.

Determine the roles of the team members — team leader, note taker, timekeeper, facilitator, members — then set goals to effectively review safety practices, make recommendations and implement measures upon management approval.

What should the duties and key elements of the safety committee be?

Safety committees should be involved in developing safe work practices, writing safety programs, facilitating safety training with the organization, conducting inspections of the workplace and investigating any reported accidents. An effective safety committee needs to hold meetings on a regular basis; publish meeting agendas in advance; keep minutes of each meeting that include the issues discussed, proposed action to be taken, and the member that is responsible for follow-up; make the meeting minutes available to all employees; document the committee’s accomplishments; and develop a way to recognize any individuals or groups within the company that make significant contributions to the safety program.

What safety policies and procedures should safety committees develop?

It is recommended that employers have:

  • Safety policies — review on an annual basis.
  • Written compliance programs — the type of business will determine Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) required programs.
  • Preventative maintenance programs — regular equipment inspection and documentation.
  • Standard operating procedures — guidelines should be provided to employees.
  • Written incident and accident reporting procedures — include near misses.
  • Medical provider relationships and a return to work program — develop relationships and maintain communication.

How can companies keep safety committee members and employees engaged?

Safety committees may struggle to maintain member enthusiasm. Consider inviting noncommittee front-line workers to participate in a meeting and discuss hazards that they encounter daily. This will allow the committee to rotate their focus on a variety of topics. To get everyone engaged at your workplace, tell employees how they can be of assistance to the committee, encourage employees to report hazards and unsafe work practices to a committee member, act on employee recommendations, keep the committee visible and promote all activities and accomplishments.

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