An active and effective safety committee can significantly improve safety at your company by instituting programs and providing support that help to reduce accidents, injuries and illnesses. While safety committees are not required by federal OSHA, several states that run their own occupational safety and health programs do have requirements for committees. Often, the state requirements target specific industries or employers with a certain number of employees.
In high performing organizations with effective safety committees, there is a sense of ownership from the employees of the safety programs and culture. When these employees are asked why the safety culture is so important to them they attribute it to the fact that they helped develop the programs and want to see them be successful.
What are the benefits? Safety committees can provide a number of benefits, including:
- Providing a forum for problem solving that can withstand changes in management and personnel assignments without losing overall focus and direction.
- Providing supervisors and managers with a resource to turn to when they are faced with safety problems that they might not have the time or technical expertise to deal with effectively.
- Involving more people in the overall safety and health management of the company.
- Mobilizing and getting people working together who may not have had previous business reasons to work together, thereby helping to open up lines of communication that may not have existed before.
- Providing employees with a broader base of safety knowledge through rotation of assignments as subcommittee chairpersons to other subcommittees and as subcommittee members. This helps build the safety culture in the company.
- Assigning responsibility to more of the subcommittee members, rather than place those safety responsibilities on only one or two individuals. This helps prevent "safety burnout" by increasing safety knowledge and responsibilities in small pieces at a time rather than in large chunks that may overwhelm a person.
How can you get started? Things to consider before implementing a safety committee:
- Remember that there are four stages of group development:
- (1) Forming, (2) Storming, (3) Norming and then (4) Performing
- Will members have term limits?
- Stagger members departure dates from the committee so that you do not lose momentum getting all the new members on the same page.
- When, where and how often will meetings be held?
- Monthly is preferable, but no less than quarterly.
- Will employees be asked to volunteer? If not enough do so, how will safety committee members be chosen?
- What are the committee’s goals?
- Create a mission statement for the committee!
- What records and/or documentation are needed?
The committee's membership and functions should reflect the company's size, complexity and operating exposures. Depending on the company's size, you may consider having multiple safety committees to reflect varying areas of the company. If you have multiple operations in multiple states each location may have a safety committee that reports to a national or corporate safety committee.
If you need assistance in developing a safety committee please reach out to your Catto & Catto safety consultant for more information.