Course 701 - Effective OSH Committee Operations

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier


The Key to Successful Safety Committees

In the last module we discussed ways to get people excited about joining and being involved in the safety committee. In this module, we'll continue the theme of safety committee member professional development. Effective education and training is the key to making the safety committee a valuable profit center in your company.

If you've been a member of a safety committee whose members were not properly trained, you can appreciate the benefits from effective safety committee training. You may be a member of a safety committee right now. Did you receive any training about your role and responsibilities as a safety committee member when you joined? Chances are you didn't. If you did, that's great. New safety committee members should be properly educated so that they understand why their new position is so important. The purpose is to affect attitudes about the safety committee and the contribution each member can make.

Safety committees that lack effective education and training, for the most part, flounder around but rarely get much done.

Training the Safety Committee

It's important that safety committee members are trained so that they understand the big picture. Each member needs to know how the safety committee fits into the company's operations plan and how it can most effectively benefit the employer.

Training will help each safety committee member:
  • understand the role and purpose of the safety committee;
  • understand and carry out their individual responsibilities;
  • understand important safety and health concepts, methods, rules;
  • improve safety leadership skills;
  • improve communications skills with other employees;
  • improve meeting management skills;
  • improve problem solving skills;
  • improve writing skills;
  • improve ability to successfully submit proposals;
  • increase their value to the company; and
  • increase the opportunity for career advancement.
Training will help the safety committee:
  • fulfill their mission to assist the employer;
  • improve its status within the company;
  • work together as a problem-solving team;
  • submit high quality recommendations to correct hazards; and
  • have a positive impact on lowering claims costs, raising profits.
A well-trained safety committee will help the employer:
  • gain a better understanding of the positive impact of safety;
  • demonstrate effective safety leadership and management;
  • lower injury and illness rates;
  • improve profitability, competitiveness, and morale;
  • correct hazards and make system improvements in a timely manner;
  • maintain an effective system of accountability; and
  • develop a successful recognition program.

Three Key Subject Areas

For a safety committee to operate successfully, its members should be educated and trained in at least three very important areas:

  • Safety committee operations
  • Hazard identification and control concepts and methods
  • Accident investigation procedures

Training in Safety Committee Operations

This is pretty obvious, but no less important. Safety committee members should be trained in how the safety committee operates, how meetings are conducted, and what is expected of them as members. New safety committee members may not have a firm understanding of the consultative role the safety committee plays within the safety management system. They may not realize that one of the primary purposes of safety committees is to help the employer fulfill safety accountabilities.

Training in Hazard Identification and Control

To be effective, safety committee members must know basic hazard identification and control concepts and methods. We'll cover this topic briefly below. A more in-depth discussion can be found in OSHAcademy Course 704.

One of the hazard identification and control duties you might have as a member of the safety committee might be conducting regular walk-around safety inspections. Safety inspections can be effective in spotting workplace hazards, but only if the people inspecting know what they're looking for and ask the right questions.

Sometimes, safety inspections consist of one person walking around with what I call the "rolling-eyeball" approach. The inspector just scans up and down, side to side, all over the place looking for hazards, not really knowing what to look for. Occasionally, the inspector might ask an employee if they have any "safety complaints", only to receive a quick "no" so the person can get back to work. You can imagine that such an inspection ends up a waste of the inspector's time and the employer's money. If you are going to inspect...inspect effectively so that the company realizes some benefit from the process.

Hierarchy of Controls

It's very important that safety committee members be trained on using the well-known Hierarchy of Controls, which includes five basic strategies in controlling exposure to hazards in the workplace.

    Controlling workplace hazards: The first three strategies reduce exposure by controlling hazards. If you can get rid of the hazard, you don't have to manage behaviors.

  1. Elimination - totally eliminate the hazard.
  2. Substitution - substitute a hazardous condition with a less hazardous or hazard free condition.
  3. Engineering - eliminate or reduce hazards through design and redesign.
  4. Controlling employee behaviors: The last two strategies reduce exposure by controlling employee behaviors through the use of procedures and personal protective equipment (PPE).

  5. Administrative controls - to protect employees through the use of safe procedures and practices.
  6. Personal protective equipment - to set up personal barriers to the hazards.

Safety professionals know all about the Hierarchy of Controls, so be sure to get trained and otherwise become more familiar with each of this topic. You may want to attend conferences sponsored by the National Safety Council, American Society of Safety Engineers and others to learn more about this important topic.

Note: ANSI/AIHA Z10-2005 also includes "Warnings" as one of the strategies in the Hierarchy of Controls. However, I would classify this strategy as an administrative control because warnings are only as effective as the awareness of and compliance with their message. Warnings do not eliminate or reduce hazards.

Training on Accident Investigation Procedures

In some companies, safety committees are assigned the responsibility to review and evaluate accident reports. Consequently, it's important that safety committee members understand effective accident investigation procedures and what good accident reports look like.

accident inv

Six-Step Accident Investigation Procedure

One effective process for conducting accident investigations includes six steps to assess, analyze, and evaluate facts to develop permanent corrective actions.

Step 1: Secure the accident scene to ensure material evidence is not moved.
Step 2: Gather data and information using observation, interviews, photos, sketches, etc.
Step 3: Develop the sequence of events prior to, during and immediately after the accident.
Step 4: Analyze each event for surface and root causes that contributed to the event.
Step 5: Develop recommendations for immediate and long-term corrective actions.
Step 6: Write the accident report.

You'll find more about this topic in Course 702.

Training Strategies for Safety Committees


You now know the subjects in which to train safety committee members, but what type of training is best, and when is the best time to conduct the training? You have several alternatives.

  • Formal classroom training: In many cases, formal training in-house or from an external source can get a safety committee member trained quickly when needed. Classroom training is best if the class is composed of students from many different departments or companies. By the way, most adults like small group exercise as their favorite training method. On the other hand, most adults do not like lecture (boring!)
  • Computer based training (CBT): This is growing in popularity because safety committee members can fit short training sessions on the computer into their busy schedules at work or at home. CBT can lack the quality other types of training offers if no live interaction occurs between the student and an instructor.
  • Informal on-the-job training: (OJT) This is best done by first-line supervisors. Safety committee members will learn how to do things like use personal protective equipment, conduct accident investigations, and perform job hazard analysis.
  • Mini training sessions at safety committee meetings: This is a good method to keep safety committee members up on the latest changes to OSHA standards and changes in company policy, procedures, and rules. Mini training sessions can be as short as five minutes or up to 30 minutes. However, most are in the 10 minute range, so time is available to conduct other meeting business.

Final Words

You know the importance of a well-trained safety committee, the subjects to train, and the best strategies for getting the training done. Safety education and training can have dramatic positive results in the success of your safety committee and your organization's safety management system. Are you ready for the quiz? Go for it!


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Which of the following is a positive benefit of a well-trained safety committee?

2. Which of the following would be the least useful training subject for safety committees?

3. Education and training help the safety committee member enforce safety rules with greater expertise.

4. According to the text, which of the following is not one of the three important topics in which safety committee members should be trained to ensure successful operation?

5. Which of the following is the classroom training method adults usually like the best?

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.