Don't pass this module up just because you already have a safety committee!
This module is designed to help you if you are trying to start a new safety committee in your company. However, if you already have a safety committee, be sure to complete this module because you'll still receive some good information to help you further develop your safety committee's effectiveness. At a minimum, it will be a great review for you.
Let's say your company does not presently have a safety committee. You are convinced that the company would benefit if it started one, but how do you sell the idea to the CEO?
You've got to "$$ talk bottom line $$" to get management's attention.
An effective safety committee may not only help prevent employees' from getting hurt or killed on the job, it may help decrease future direct and indirect accident costs. An effective safety committee is a profit center, not a cost center for the company.
As we just saw, by identifying and controlling hazards and unsafe work practices, the safety committee protects employees and save lives. The safety committee also protects the employer by reducing direct and accident costs by many thousands of dollars.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nearly 3 million non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry employers in 2016. According to the Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, U.S. businesses spend more than one billion dollars a week on serious, nonfatal workplace injuries.
What do these statistics mean to you? Effective "profit center" safety committees have the potential to save not only lives and limbs, but lots of money. Many thousands of dollars each year can be saved in each company every time a safety committee uncovers and helps the employer eliminate hazardous conditions or unsafe work practices.
Every dollar invested in proactive safety, including safety committee activities, may return hundreds back. You've got to convince management that an effective safety committee not only saves lives, but saves money too.
OK, you know the safety committee is going to be composed of a number of people from management and the labor force. What kind of structure should the safety committee take? Typically, the committee will have a chairperson (some will also have a co-chair), a recorder, and of course a number of members. You don't need a complicated bureaucratic structure.
The chairperson's job is, of course, one of the most important on the committee. He or she is the key coordinator ensuring the safety committee operates effectively. Below are some of the very important responsibilities of the chairperson.
Let's not forget another very important responsibility: that of the recorder or secretary. This person assists the chairperson in making sure all communications are accurately recorded and distributed to committee members and others. Some duties of the recorder may include:
For the safety committee to operate most effectively, everyone on the committee needs to be involved in some way. Safety committee members should do more than just report safety concerns from their departments. Below are some ideas for members.
The makeup of the committee membership is a very important consideration. Establishing joint labor-management committees is a popular method of employee participation. They are extensively and successfully used in many European countries and Canadian provinces.
Blast from the Past - Here's another short talk OSHAcademy's CEO, Steve Geigle, gave as an OR-OSHA training specialist. The message: Management and unions must work together.
Other types of committees also have been used successfully for safety and health participation. At many unionized worksites, employee safety committees -- with members selected by the union or elected by employees -- work alone, without management, on various tasks. At some worksites, hourly workers participate on a central safety committee.
In addition, some worksites use employee or joint committees for specific purposes, such as inspecting the site for hazards, investigating accidents and incidents, and training new employees. Finally, although they go by a different name, quality circles are another form of committee. They focus, at least part of the time, on identifying and resolving health and safety problems.
If one of the purposes of the safety committee is to bring management and labor together in a cooperative effort to improve the safety and health of workers, it just makes business sense to include representatives from management ranks as well as the work floor.
Management and labor can sit together and discuss their unique and common concerns regarding safety. The safety committee becomes a forum both management and labor may use, to ensure mutually acceptable solutions to problems can be reached.
It's important the safety committee not be dominated by management in general, or any one individual, be it the safety director, chairperson, or member. To make sure this does not happen, establish ground rules, and techniques for decision-making that promotes group consensus.
Management representatives and the chairperson will be the primary conduits of communications between the safety committee and the employer. Committee members are the primary communicators with employees. It's very important communication occurs in both directions.
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