If employees don't feel involved and represented in their company's safety program, it is unlikely the program will be successful. A workplace safety committee is a tool that, if created and conducted properly, can increase the effectiveness of a safety program by:
- Providing structure and assigning responsibility for carrying out a workplace safety program;
- Enhancing a cooperative attitude and bringing together strong interaction among various areas of an organization;
- Serving as a communication vehicle for employees to voice safety concerns;
- Serving as a tool for employers to promote safety to employees; and
- Spreading the responsibility of the safety program among employees.
A safety committee will only be successful, however, if it is carefully created with structure and support. As with any safety initiative, it is imperative that management be visibly and actively involved. Members should serve on the committee and attend regular meetings. Other committee members should be chosen for their enthusiasm, potential expertise and communication skills. The committee should include representatives from all the various departments but not become so large that it becomes cumbersome and ineffective.
To ensure that the committee doesn't become a place for employees just to voice complaints, the committee's goals should be clear from the start. Its primary role is always to promote and ensure the success of a company's safety program.
The specific responsibilities of the safety committee may include:
- Develop strategic safety goals and annual action items;
- Participate in development, monitoring and updating of safety program and possible safety incentives;
- Hold monthly safety meetings;
- Hold regular workplace safety inspections and help identify workplace hazards;
- Participate in accident/incident investigations;
- Ensure maintenance of injury and work hazard records;
- Perform review of illness and injury records;
- Organize regular safety training programs;
- Consult with outside experts when necessary;
- Address employee complaints and suggestions regarding safety issues;
- Make safety recommendations to management; and
- Communicate with employees and management about safety issues and goals.
Every group needs a leader and a safety committee is no exception. A workplace safety coordinator should be assigned to head the group. For many companies this will not be a separate position but rather an added role to an individual's existing position. The coordinator is responsible for leading the committee, scheduling and heading safety meetings, serving as a point-of-contact with outside agencies and retaining safety records and documents. Safety meetings should be well documented and the records should be retained for at least a couple years. Many safety committees prepare an annual report to overview the safety trends within the organization, advertise their results, and identify outstanding safety issues.
For companies beginning a new safety committee, the following first meeting agenda is a good starting point:
- Establish the role and purpose of the committee;
- Discuss the commitment required from each member;
- Develop an agenda for what the committee hopes to achieve, both long and short term;
- Assign action items to the members of the committee; and
- Take meeting notes and post the minutes as well as committee goals and action items.