Manage your safety committee
 Aug. 23, 2013

How important are safety committees to an organization's loss prevention program? Most safety directors believe safety committees are vital to the overall safety program. But, they need to be managed. If mismanaged or worse, not supervised at all, they will be ineffective and can adversely impact your organizations loss prevention and loss reduction programs.

Safety committees typically fail for several reasons, but top-heavy management representation is the most common. It tends to reduce the give and take of ideas that fuels the committee's effectiveness. Other common pitfalls include:

Unclear roles. The group needs to know it's purpose and function within the organization. Develop a statement of purpose or mission statement that clearly defines the committee's functions and member duties. It should specify that the committee meets regularly and communicates with employees about its activities.

Size. The size of the organization and the hazards workers face should influence the type and size of your committee. Keep committees relatively small so that members can participate actively. You might want to establish subcommittees for special projects. Some organizations have multiple committees that serve individual divisions, buildings, or even shifts.

Failure to orient new members. Those new to the committee will not initially understand the group dynamics and past issues. Provide new members with past meeting minutes and other relevant documents. If possible, let departing members orient the newcomers.

Lack of follow-up. Committees succeed or fail based on their reputation for doing what they say they will do. Committee members with specific safety responsibilities should be required to provide formal status reports. Agendas should list not only the topic to be discussed but also the person responsible for seeing the issue through.

Going through the motions. If someone views participating on the safety committee as "another thing to do", this is not a good committee candidate. The best members are active and involved participants who eagerly share their passion for safety with their co-workers. Leaders should look for prospective committee members that want to be involved representing their department or work group.

Safety committees need guidance and direction. They can be rewarding experiences for participants and strong contributors to reducing both the direct and indirect costs associated with work related injuries. For help on forming or managing safety committees contact CMTA at wcgroup@cmta.net.

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