The best way to make a difference at your company is to establish the ground rules for safety and enforce them fairly, but where do you begin with that process? The purpose of a safety committee is to create guidelines and educate the team on how to follow them. To do this, you’ll need the knowledge of how to put the committee together and how to keep it running smoothly.
In this guide, we’ll go over how to create a lasting safety committee and what guidelines you should follow to keep the playing field level.
Table of Contents
Create a “Why” Statement – Why Start a Safety Committee?
Before you even begin to start a safety committee and create guidelines to follow, you’ll need to construct a clear, concise reason…. WHY are you starting a safety committee?
This will help remind members of the safety committee of what they have set out to do. There could be several reasons: decrease the number of employee injuries, maintain your OSHA compliance, reduce your insurance costs… Whatever your reasons, be clear from he start and create a “Why” statement. Successful safety committees always being with “why?”
There are several questions you’ll want to ask yourself to create the right mission statement for your company’s safety committee:
What Are We Doing?
Perhaps the most important question of all when you start a safety committee is, what is the purpose of the team? What do you aim to do? Outline this overarching goal clearly, as it will guide the team throughout their endeavors.
Make sure to be as specific as possible so there are no understandings. This will direct the course of the committee in the guidelines they establish and in how they enforce those rules. By being specific, some examples might be:
- We want to reduce our employee accidents or injuries by 10% this year
- We want to make sure that the highest injury Department from last year, decreases their injuries by 20%
- We want to make sure that all employee injuries, or even “incidents”, get reported within the hour
- We want to reduce workplace injuries so we can reduce the premium paid for workers compensation insurance coverage
By being as specific as you can, you can judge how effective your safety committee is in achieving its goals.
How Do We Do It?
The second question asks for a plan of action. How can you accomplish what you set out to do? This can’t be a simple, vague idea of how to achieve your goals, it has to be specific. It doesn’t require a detailed step-by-step plan, but the more information you can provide for your team, the more likely you are to succeed in having them follow.
In your “why” statement, explain what your team will do to ensure the safety of their coworkers.
Who Are We Doing This For?
Another important thing to remember in your mission statement is who it aims to benefit. With a safety committee, the goal should be to ensure all employees within the company are safe in all aspects of their respective work, as much as can be.
After all, what’s the point of the committee if you forget who you are supposed to be helping?
What Value Do Safety Committees Have?
When you start a safety committee, you must evaluate the fruits of your labor. What does your group accomplish, and how does that benefit the workplace?
This also applies to what members of the committee bring to the table, and how they share those gifts with clients and customers. The value of a safety committee’s work is directly correlated to the overall well-being of the company and the employees.
Assemble the Safety Committee
Once you have a clear mission statement, you can start a safety committee recruitment period. As you sort through the people who wish to make a change in the company, it’s important to pick the right people for the task. Safety committee members are the backbone and the lifeblood of the committee so take this seriously. Listen to them discuss their strengths and weaknesses, and discuss matters with others where appropriate to gain feedback on how to improve your committee.
Assess the Safety Team
Picking safety committee members means filtering out potential time-wasters that can set you and the team back. You also need to consider the size of your company. As a small company, with less than ten employees, you can generally get away with monthly inspections. You can also do safety meetings without a committee if most of your employees work from an office. Otherwise, you’ll need a committee.
As an alternative to an in-person meeting, members of the team can meet online via services like FaceTime and Skype. Safety meetings are ALWAYS best in person, but with large parts of many companies working from home, getting those off-site workers into an online meeting is a second best option.
Uncovering legitimate safety issues isn’t always easy and you need the best people your Company has to offer to discover, then eliminate workplace safety hazards.
Encourage Diversity on the Safety Committee
To start a safety committee off right, you’ll need to encourage different voices with different backgrounds to participate. When selecting members of the committee, remember that every voice has something unique to offer. If you only recruit people from one background, you are ignoring another facet of the whole picture that could help you in your mission. Strive to have regularly hourly employees, managers, workers from different Departments, etc., to make sure all viewpoints are accounted for.
Strive to encourage differences to coexist and work together, rather than allow one voice to lead blindly. Be careful not to go too far and exclude voices for the sake of diversity, as that will also remove important voices that could be helpful. Your safety committee must feel safe among the other members in order to be successful. Successful safety committees involve people from all walks of life, rank within the company, and both managers and line employees alike.
Within the committee, there must be clear leadership. Designate the roles within the committee, like a director or a coordinator, who will be able to make key decisions and execute the plan of action when needed. Having a leader ensures that there is someone overlooking the committee’s efforts from within.
Roles are an important way of assigning responsibilities to members within the committee to keep the whole operation running smoothly.
Represent Every Department Equally
When selecting members to start a safety committee, it’s imperative that you appoint people from every department to ensure each one receives proper recognition at meetings and in the decision-making process. By excluding certain departments, you are essentially telling every employee in that department that their voice does not matter. What you will learn is that different departments have different safety concerns. An office workers observations and concerns are different from an employee who drives a truck.
Address this by selecting your candidates carefully and maintaining a balance so that every department has someone to speak for them that the rest of their department approves of.
Set Goals for the Safety Committee
Before the committee is assembled, outline the goals you want them to meet. What do you strive for? Establish the steps that your team will take to meet the goals that they set, and frame these steps as smaller goals for the team to accomplish so that they don’t lose any steam as they make progress.
By setting goals, it’s easier for the team to see their progress and feel accomplished in their actions. Smaller goals that help lead to larger ones can make the entire process seem easier to handle by reducing the daunting idea of doing everything alone or having to rush to get it all done. Small steps will also help any potential procrastinators stay on target by having them meet smaller goals as opposed to one big task.
Part of the goal setting process should revolve around identifying safety hazards, hold regularly scheduled safety committee meetings, promote health and safety through employee awareness, and address any other health and safety issues that you can set goals around. Although employees sometimes “roll their eyes” at a safety meeting, in the end, addressing safety issues is a key part of any company’s safety program. An effective safety committee knows where they are going and what they are trying to accomplish. The only way to do that is to set goals, and measure your success against those goals.
When you start a safety committee, one of the main purposes is to solve problems concerning safety within the workplace. Take into account all the voices on the committee to devise a plan of action that everyone can agree with. Safety isn’t something to be messed around with, so listen earnestly to each member of the team.
With a solution in mind, execute the plan. Problem solving has many steps, and can best be accomplished by a team of people with the same goals in mind. Work to ensure open communication so that problem solving doesn’t run into any issues.
Some examples of tools that your team can use to solve safety related problems include:
- Creating safety checklists
- Revising and improving your Company health and safety guidelines
- Creating workplace inspections sheets
- Performing and documenting regular safety walkthroughs of the premises
- Creating hazard identification training for all employees
- Engaging senior management to participate in the safety committee goals
One other suggestion for problem solving would be to reach out to your Regional OSHA office to see what materials they can provide to help you get the safety committee up and running efficiently and effectively. Although some Companies are scared to reach out to OSHA, they shouldn’t be. OSHA is there to help promote workplace safety and I have always found them to be helpful. A successful safety committee engages with, not against, their local OSHA office.
Use Time Effectively
The time you have when you start a safety committee is precious. You have to have excellent time management skills to keep everything moving. You don’t want to waste any time on frivolous matters when there is serious work to be done to keep you and your coworkers safe on the job.
Make Safety Committee Meetings Matter
Workplace safety committees are a commitment from employees, managers and the Company as a whole. Within the committee you will need to have meetings – make those meetings count. Everyone has experienced a meeting that was disorganized or drawn out at some point in their professional career, which means that everyone understands how these meetings can feel like a waste of time. It’s your job to ensure that the message is conveyed quickly and effectively.
The committee functions only after the meetings address the plan and next steps. This means that all the roles must be doing their parts to contribute to the meeting for it to be concise. Go over the major concerns within the company and skip minor things that can be adjusted. Bring those issues up at the end rather than at the beginning, so that members in attendance will not get discouraged by a long list of tasks. If the Team has suggestions, that can be backed by data to make the Company safety program better, make sure you elevate that research to senior management.
Tips for Productivity
Reminders of how to stay productive are always important to making every meeting count. Attendance is a key factor, as the points you cover won’t take effect if essential parties are missing. Schedule the meeting with plenty of time in advance so that it can be moved around if need be.
You’ll also want to create an agenda to review minutes from the last meeting, as well as discuss the latest issues and reports in the workplace. Follow up on any assignments given out since the last meeting to make sure goals are met.
Deciding to start a workplace safety committee is an incredibly important endeavor for all parties involved. Safety is key to a productive working environment, so make sure that everyone involved is on top of their role and can help keep the operation running smoothly. All members need to work together to keep the workplace safe.