When asked about the experience of serving on safety committees, participants often have mixed reactions. They either see the experience as rewarding and believe that they help shape the organization’s safety culture or they categorize the experience as “just another thing to do”.
Many organizations have cultivated productive safety committees that make strong contributions to the overall productivity of the operations they serve. Those committees are useful workplace safety resources that help drive the company’s safety culture. But this doesn’t happen naturally. Safety committees only succeed in organizations where safety is a company-wide priority. Those companies employ support practices that help their committees stay fresh and focused. Is your safety committee a contributing factor to the organization’s success, or do you need to revamp your safety committee? If you are in the latter situation, then consider these seven practices:
Progress Before Perfection. When initiating a safety committee, set both short and long-term goals, but avoid the temptation to aim too high initially. Goals must be reasonable and attainable. Think about what you hope to accomplish and how you are going to measure your results. Start by asking, “what can the committee do to advance the company’s safety agenda?” Consider process related objectives such as developing employee safety training programs and workplace hazard inspection procedures.
Viva Variety. Workplaces consist of employees with different roles in the company and varying backgrounds. Your safety committee should follow form and include a mix of your organization’s work force and management. Committees should include current or previous safety champions. Enthusiastic participation is the fuel that powers the safety committee.
Develop Curriculum. Provide committee members with materials to enhance their safety knowledge and provide members with training to make sure they can recognize workplace safety and health hazards, as well as, ways to avoid and prevent them. Your broker, insurance company, the National Safety Council and other safety organizations can offer extensive training in a variety of safety and risk control areas. It is strongly recommended that each safety committee member complete the OSHA 10-hour Training Program at the very least to address work related injury prevention.
Plan Ahead. Formalize meeting agendas in advance and distribute them so committee members can prepare. I recommend that the agenda include a time limit for the entire meeting, as well as, for each agenda item. Failing to get through the agenda is discouraging and can make the committee members feel like they a not making a contribution
Refresh The Team. It’s best when the committee is made up of volunteers rather than appointed or selected members. People that want to participate will invest the energy to make the safety committee effective. Allow for a rotation of the participants, by limiting service to a specific time period. The new participants will bring different perspectives that can serve to re-invigorate the committee.
Don’t Be Boring. This can be harder to achieve than you think. Serving on a safety committee should be a pleasant experience and not a chore. Making the meetings fun may be a stretch but consider opening meetings with a thought-provoking exercise and bring in occasional guest speakers. Make sure everyone has a chance to contribute in each meeting.
Take A Look Outward. Try to connect with other industries or companies and see what they’re doing. People in industries different than yours may offer a perspective or practice you may never have considered. When participants see how other organizations and industries address and manage risk control and safety challenges it may give your committee new ideas on how to address your organization’s safety issues.
Safety committees either move forward or they stagnate. Applying these seven practices should propel your committee forward, keep it focused and make serving on the committee an experience that participants value. Your safety committee will ultimately help your organization operate safely and productively.
Andy Viglietti, Director of Risk Management, Dillon Risk Management