Safety Committees A Key Contributor to Your Organization's Success
 March 27, 2012

How important are safety committees? Those companies with effective safety committees believe they are the foundation that their loss prevention program is built upon. Loss prevention  is not just safety. It includes both safety practices, as well as, operational considerations. Companies that are successful in reducing the incidence of work-related injuries and the costs associated with those injuries have learned that they must marry safety protocols with procedures and processes that keep the workplace productive to manage loss costs.

How can safety committees be contributors to loss prevention programs? For one, they draw on the safety perspectives of people from many levels within the organization. Safety committees come in many shapes and sizes and will include employees, line supervisors, managers and sometimes top management. In addition, they will either include the company safety director or have the safety director serve as the committee's technical resource. Safety committees can also serve as an observational resource beyond just the safety director or location supervisor. Additionally, while supervisors have a natural tendency to focus on productivity issues, members of the safety committee will keep a watchful eye on the safety elements that are equally important to the work process. In short, they expand the scope of quality control in the organization. An often under appreciated value of safety committees is the role they can play in promoting the organization's safety program and objectives among the workforce.

Steps to Forming Your Organization's Safety Committee

So you believe a safety committee can benefit the organization, how do you get started? There are several fundamental steps that need to be completed to form and launch a safety committee. The steps include:

Determine the Structure of the Safety Committee
Identify who are candidates to serve on the safety committee. As mentioned earlier, ideally there should be a blend of employees and supervisors, with participants representing many elements of the operation. Often times supervisors and managers with responsibility for multiple disciplines can provide direction for safety and loss prevention practices that will affect several departments.

Determine the Optimal Size of Your Committee
What is the ideal committee size? Assuming it's a joint labor – management committee,  keep in mind the importance of maintaining balance in the number of representatives from each group. Try to include representatives from the various departments and work groups. For most operations, (depending on the size of the employer) a safety committee of no less than five and no more than ten participants ensures each member contributes and there is adequate representation from all areas of the organization.

Ensure Everyone Understands the Culture
Safety committee  participants need to be individuals who both understand your safety culture and have demonstrated a commitment to the organization's safety culture. If not, the committee will work against itself and members will continually stumble over one another. Ideally, all participants should share a common understanding of the organization's safety priorities and be moving in the same direction with respect to balancing productivity and safety.

In the Beginning Set Clear Expectations for the Safety Committee's Roles and Responsibilities
Ensure that the initial meeting includes:

  • A warm welcome to the participants, thanking them up front for their participation.
  • An outline of the meeting schedule, ideally at least once monthly.
  • A summarization of the committee’s responsibilities and role within the organization including: work place inspections, making safety recommendations, conducting/reviewing accident investigations.
  • After selecting a committee chairman, ensure that all parties understand that the role of the chairman is to ensure that the committee stays on task during meetings, their recommendations are reported to top management and information pertinent to preparing for ensuing meetings is provided to committee members in advance of each meeting.
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