Creating an Effective Safety Committee

In many areas of management, the fewer the rules, the better. But safety is one of those areas in the work environment that requires rules and standards -- and everybody has to accept them.

Managers must communicate that the company is dedicated to safety because they are genuinely interested in keeping employees safe, not just to keep OSHA happy or workers' compensation rates down. To do that, it is essential to create an effective safety committee, one whose authentic purpose is keeping employees safe and whose recommendations are respected by both employees and management. Here are five keys to establishing an effective safety committee.

1. Include people who will live with the rules. Organizations go wrong when the white-collar guys in the front office decide to copy some other company's safety rules. To really understand the safety issues and gain acceptance of safety processes, you must involve the people directly affected by the rules and processes. Have a representative from each major segment of your workforce or work group and at least one employee from every shift on the safety committee.

2. Ask for volunteers, not employees nominated by management. This way, the members of the safety committee's participation and recommendations are viewed as unbiased. Employees who volunteer for this extra responsibility should be compensated for their time. Their recommendations provide value by reducing workplace accidents, and that value should be recognized and rewarded.

3. The committee needs high-level management participation in order to influence the organization. Include representatives from Human Resources and the head of the company's safety department, as well.

4. Implement recommendations one department at a time. Companies that want to improve safety may be tempted to revamp the entire safety program all at once, but they should start with small improvements. Identify the department with the most injuries and have the safety committee determine, with that department, what has to be done to reduce those injuries to zero. You may not get there immediately, but you've set a goal. Along the way, the safety committee should celebrate each month, along with the department, the small victories the department and the new safety rules and processes generate.

5. Your safety committee must meet regularly and with purpose. An effective safety committee evaluates current policies but also must address changing needs. For example, if a new solvent has been purchased to clean equipment, employees need to know how to use it and any precaution that should be taken, which the safety committee may determine requires new training or safety equipment. Meeting on a regular basis allows the safety committee to address safety issues before they become crises.

A safety committee works and provides immense value to the company when employees trust it to represent their best interests and when management values the grassroots insights the committee provides. By gathering together the right members and approaching safety as a long-term mission with small intermediate steps and successes, your company conveys its commitment to employees.

Posted by Paul Glover on Jul 04, 2012


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