What is Safety Committee & Tips For An Effective Workplace Safety Committee

What is Safety Committee & Tips For An Effective Workplace Safety Committee

Safety committees

If two or more safety representatives have requested in writing that a safety committee be set up, the employer has 3 months to comply.

In medium to large organizations, the easiest and most effective method of consultation is the health and safety committee. It will realize its full potential if its recommendations are seen to be implemented and both management and employee concerns are freely discussed. It will not be so successful if it is seen as a talking shop.

The committee should have stated objectives that mirror the objectives in the organization’s health and safety policy statement and its terms of reference. Terms of reference should include the following:

  •  the study of accident and notifiable disease statistics to enable reports to be made of recommended remedial actions; 
  • the examination of health and safety audits and statutory inspection reports; 
  • the consideration of reports from the external enforcement agency; 
  • the review of new legislation, Approved Codes of Practice and guidance and their effect on the organization; 
  • the monitoring and review of all health and safety training and instruction activities in the organization; 
  • the monitoring and review of health and safety publicity and communication throughout the organization; 
  • development of safe systems of work and safety procedures; reviewing risk assessments; 
  • considering reports from safety representatives; 
  • continuous monitoring of arrangements for health and safety and revising them whenever necessary. 

There are no fixed rules on the composition of the health and safety committee except that it should be representative of the whole organization. It should have representation from the workforce and the management, including at least one senior manager (other than the Health and Safety Advisor). Managers and representatives should agree on who should chair the meetings, how often meetings should be held and what they hope to achieve. 

Accident and ill-health investigations

Properly investigated accidents and ill health can reveal weaknesses that need to be remedied. A joint investigation with safety representatives is more likely to inspire confidence with workers so that they cooperate fully with the investigation. Those involved may be concerned about being blamed for the accident in many cases. 

Safety representatives are entitled to contact enforcing authority inspectors. If this is just for information, they can be contacted directly. If it is a formal complaint against the employer, the inspector will need to know if the employer has been informed. The inspectors can be contacted anonymously. They will keep the person’s identity secret in such circumstances. 

Training, facilities, and assistance 

Safety representatives are legally entitled to paid time off for training, which is usually freely available from their trade union or the TUC. 

Training courses topics often include: 

  • the role and functions of the safety representative; 
  • health and safety legislation; 
  • how to identify and minimize hazards; 
  • how to carry out a workplace inspection and accident investigation; employer’s health and safety arrangements, including emergency procedures, risk assessments, and health and safety policies; further information on training courses

The employer is also required to provide facilities and assistance for safety representatives. Depending on the circumstances, these could include: 

  • noticeboard; 
  • telephone; 
  • lockable filing cabinet; 
  • access to an office to meet workers in private; 
  • camera; key health and safety information; 
  • access to specialist assistance and support in understanding technical issues. 

Tips For An Effective Workplace Safety Committee

Put progression before perfection at the start.

When creating a safety committee, begin the process with immediate and long-term goals, but be careful about aiming too high initially.

“What are you going to accomplish?” Potter said. “Is there a measurement that you’re going to have? What can you do to push the safety forward just a little bit? Not monumental, not huge, but one thing that you can hang your hat on Dec. 31 and say, ‘This is what our committee accomplished in 2017.’”

Embrace variety.

Workplaces consist of employees with varied positions and backgrounds. Ensure your safety committee follows suit by including a mix of your organization’s labor force and management.

“This is not an authority position,” Potter said. “This is a representation.”

Committees should include current or previous safety champions as well. “Make sure you have people who are gung-ho about it because that’s important when you get it going,” Hawk said.

Develop a basic curriculum.

Be prepared to provide training and materials to boost committee members’ knowledge and recognition of workplace safety and health hazards and ways to avoid and prevent them.

Potter noted that numerous safety education resources are available. NSC and other worker safety organizations offer extensive training in various areas, while the OSHA Outreach Training Program includes 10-hour and 30-hour classes.

Plan meetings ahead of time.

Develop meeting agendas a few days in advance and distribute them so committee members can prepare. Part of the plan should include setting a time limit for the entire meeting and each agenda item. Monitor how meetings adhere to these limits.

Hawk also favors having one person serve as the committee’s “conscience.” This person’s duties would include:

  • Keeping the group focused and ensuring the committee acts properly.
  • Following pre-determined ground rules.
  • Treating all members with respect.

Maintain a reasonable rotation among committee members.

Ideally, the committee will be volunteers rather than appointed or selected members. That dynamic increases the probability of consistent member investment and energy, Hawk and Potter said.

Consider the size of your organization and the committee when deciding the best rotation schematic. Hawk stressed the importance of a number of perspectives and the tendency of groupthink to build on an individual’s idea.

“That’s one thing that happens a lot – people get on a committee, and then no one else can get on it,” Hawk said. “So make sure it rotates a lot.”

Potter suggests a rotation of three years on, two years off for most larger companies.

Don’t be boring.

Hawk champions the credo “Make Safety Fun,” so he naturally offered several ideas on how to make this happen.

“It gets to be so boring, like meetings can generally,” Hawk said. “So what can you do to vary it? Make it an agenda item. Talk about what we can do to make these meetings more fun and better.”

Suggestions include:

  • Opening meetings with personal reflections or exercises before the traditional reading of minutes.
  • Using occasional guest speakers.
  • Scheduling some meetings at a nearby restaurant, museum, or park.

Occasionally look outward.

“Try to get in touch with other industries and see what they’re doing outside of your field,” Hawk said. “For example, if you’re in construction, oil or gas [industries], reach a hospital and see what their safety committee is doing.

“Just getting your brain thinking differently. That’s exactly what it is. They’re going to have a different mindset and approach than you will. Plus, it’s more interesting for the committee members when they do that. Plus, it’s not hard to do.”

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One Comment

  1. I liked that you said that the safety committee must undergo training and have access to materials that can boost their knowledge of workplace safety and health hazards. With this in mind, I would assume that construction companies could benefit from HSR training programs for their people that are responsible for the safety of the sites. I could imagine how regular training sessions could keep all the HSR personnel of all the important tips to eliminate possible safety risks.

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