You don't have to climb a mountain and sit on a big rock for six days to visualize the role of the safety committee. However, it will take a more thought to develop the safety committee so it meets the expected behaviors and outcomes necessary to fulfill its role.
First, let's look at the concept of "role" and how it applies to the safety committee. Look up the definition of "role" and you'll find something like:
As you can see, roles are labels to help define who we are, how we should behave personally and what we should be doing as an individual or group.
I'm sure the position you hold in your company has some sort of formal title that helps you and others identify your role and associated duties. Along with that role come assigned responsibilities and status. Every role you play has with it a set of expected behaviors and activities that are considered appropriate for that role.
Take a look at the following list of common roles we play. The odds are you play one or more of these roles.
Of course, there are many more roles we can play, but you get the idea. Each role is unique with its own set of performance expectations.
To help the safety committee function better, each member must understand this basic principle:
What we do depends on who we think we are.
For example, if safety committee members:
To better understand and convey the role of your safety committee as an internal consultant team providing expert advice and assistance, think about creating a "vision statement." The vision statement describes who you are. A good vision statement will help you determine what to do and make it more likely that you'll realize that vision.
A committee with an appropriate vision is more likely to do the following to achieve their vision:
Sample Vision Statement: "The safety committee helps management lead in creating a world-class safety culture through educating employees and consulting with management."
A final word about vision: You may be wondering why some safety committees fail. Well, I'm sure you're familiar with the saying, "Where there is no vision, the people will perish." (Proverbs 29:18) The same principle applies to safety committees.
As a safety committee member, you perform multiple roles. Let's see how this affects your responsibilities:
Remember, writing "tickets" for violating safety rules can be especially disastrous to the success of the safety committee's effectiveness: Don't do it. Enforcing safety is considered managing safety and is a line responsibility from the CEO down through first line supervisor.
If you are a member of your company's' safety team AND a supervisor, how do you discipline your employees for unsafe behavior? Let's take a look at a scenario below to set the scene.
Larry is an member of the company's safety committee. However, he is a supervisor as well. During his workday, he notices one of his subordinates is not wearing required personal protective equipment (PPE). Larry wants to correct the unsafe behavior; however, he is unsure how to proceed.
Since Larry is a line supervisor, should he discipline the workers or should he actually refrain from discipline because he is a safety committee member?
How would you respond in the above situation? The response depends on the role you are playing at the time you discover the unsafe behavior. For instance:
To prevent role conflict like this, you might ask someone else to conduct the inspection in your department.
Armed with insight into the role of the safety committee, let's take a look at what the committee's purpose and function might be. We'll start by looking at the purpose of the safety committee. A quick review of our friendly dictionary once again defines "purpose" as "a desired or intended result or effect."
For safety committees to be successful in fulfilling their role, they need to understand their purpose and how to go about achieving intended outcomes. If the safety committee does not understand it's purpose, it may actually function to produce unintended outcomes.
Safety committees are created and developed to fulfill the following purposes:
All these purpose statements emphasize the safety committee's responsibility to help the employer do (manage) safety, not to do safety for the employer. This important idea is why we encourage safety committees to think of themselves as internal consultant groups, but not as safety "cop squads."
A safety committee should write a mission statement that explains what they do to support their vision. The purpose of the safety committee might be viewed as its mission and describes the activities above to support its assigned role.
Sample Mission Statement: "It is the mission of the Safety Committee of XYZ Company to promote a safe working environment for all employees by assisting in the overall effort to minimize the frequency of accidents, and to identify corrective measures needed to eliminate or control recognized safety hazards."
Purpose and function are related terms, but differ significantly in meaning. "Function" is: Something closely related to another thing and dependent on it for its existence, value, or significance. This definition implies that "function" is dependent on the "purpose" of the safety committee.
Whereas a purpose statement describes the intended result or effect of a safety committee activity, "function" describes the actual unintended result or effect. The actual outcome depends on the success of the attempt to carry out the intended purpose. If the safety committee does not effectively carry out its intended purpose, it may unintentionally function to hurt the company's safety and health effort.
The safety committee's function is dependent upon the effectiveness of a group to follow through with its stated purpose. The safety committee may have the best intentions, but if it cannot follow through effectively with its plans, it may actually function to harm a safety program or activity rather than help it.
Without education and training, safety committee members may not have the basic knowledge, skills, and abilities (SKAs) to perform their responsibilities. Given proper education and training, the safety committee is more likely to function to carry out its intended purpose.
For instance, the safety committee may intend to increase interest in safety by implementing a safety incentive program, but if its members do not have the SKAs to accomplish this task, they may unintentionally develop a totally reactive incentive program that results in dismal failure.
The lesson: It's not good enough just to do the right thing...you've got to do the right thing right!
Listen to Bryan explain one of the ways to deliver engaging service. Understanding the "purpose" of your job duties (functions) is a powerful way to deliver service in an engaging way.