Course 701 - Effective Safety Committee Operations

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

Effective Safety Committee Meetings

Meetings: You either Love Them or Hate Them


One of the most important factors that impact the safety committee's success is the quality of its meetings. I'm sure you've been to meetings that were poorly managed. You probably don't look forward to attending another meeting like that.

Attending safety committee meetings may be thought of as a waste of time, so it's important that they be effective. Believe it or not, safety committee meetings may be very interesting. Let's take a look at some of the things that can help ensure your meetings are not only interesting but exciting!

1. What is one of the most important factors that impact the success of a safety committee?

a. Number of people on the committee
b. Quality of the meetings
c. Absence of management
d. Authority to discipline

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Characteristics of an Effective Safety Committee Meeting

Meetings are organized. The committee chair has planned the meeting. The meeting starts and ends on time. Committee members follow an agenda that includes new and old business. Every meeting includes some kind of training.

Surprise! The most effective committee meetings are composed of about 80% expected and 20% unexpected activities. It's always a little more interesting if members anticipate a "surprise" somewhere in the meeting.

Role and purpose are understood. The shape of the meeting is a function of the perceived role the safety committee plays. The role of the safety committee answers the question, "who are we?" The role also determines the purpose, or "what the safety committee does." It's very important that all members clearly understand what their role and purpose are.

Objectives and completion dates are set. Operational objectives are more than goals. Objectives state results that are observable, measurable, and completed within stated time limits.

For instance, you might want to increase awareness about the cost of accidents. An operational objective supporting this goal might be stated as "Educate all employees in our plant about direct and indirect accident costs by the end of the year."

The extent of authority is understood. The degree of authority may be determined by OSHA law and/or the employer. In any case, with authority comes accountability. Authority, accountability, role, and purpose are all interrelated. All must be clearly understood.

Standards of behavior. Ground rules that shape the "committee culture" are extremely important. What are the commonly accepted norms of behavior during the meeting? Establishing and posting written ground rules during the meeting will help keep the meeting effective. More on this later.

2. In the most effective committee meetings, what percentage of the meeting is composed of unexpected activities?

a. 20%
b. 30%
c. 50%
d. 80%

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Characteristics of an Effective Safety Committee Meeting (Continued)

Lots of input and interaction makes for an interesting meeting.

Clear communication: Does the safety chairperson use all mediums effectively to communicate the meeting's details before, during, and after it occurs? Agendas, handouts, videos, guests, and ground rules can clearly communicate the message to members.

Member commitment: If the meeting is interesting, communication clear, and if effective consequences are designed into the safety system, members will consistently attend. During the meeting, members actively participate.

Delegated responsibilities and duties: We know the safety committee chair can't do it all. Everyone must be involved in the meeting process. Active involvement will only happen if responsibilities are delegated to members.

Member input and interaction: The successful meeting invites everyone to participate. Interaction is expected, however, ground rules establish appropriate and inappropriate interaction. The most effective safety committee chairs tap into the creativity of each member.

Members trained: The safety committee is a great training ground for "management wannabees." Some companies consider the safety committee a "management apprentice program" for prospective supervisors and managers.

As we learned in other modules, in addition to hazard identification and accident investigation, safety committee members will benefit from other topics as well. They include meeting management, conflict resolution, problem-solving, and group communications.

3. Which of the following is a clue that the safety committee is going to be ineffective?

a. Delegation of responsibilities
b. Member training
c. Mandatory participation
d. Member input and interaction

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Preparing for the Meeting

Be ready before the meeting starts.

The preparation for the safety committee meeting begins as soon as it's over. What? That's right. After the meeting is over, the chairperson should prepare for the next meeting while everything is fresh in his or her mind. And, as with every process, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Below are some important actions a chairperson can take to prepare for the meeting.

  • Determine and define the purpose of the meeting. What is the meeting supposed to get done? Not all meetings have the same purpose, so don't downplay this task.
  • Set the meeting date, time, and place. Regular dates, times, and locations help everyone set their calendars.
  • Build the agenda. Be sure to solicit input from all members and other interested persons.
    • Transfer old business.
    • Request input from members.
    • Incorporate new business topics.
    • State objectives.
  • Develop training minutes.
  • Gather supportive materials.
  • Distribute the agenda to the CEO, plant manager, supervisors, etc.
  • Post a copy so all employees can see it.
  • Place a copy of the agenda in the Safety Committee file.

4. When should preparation for the next safety committee meeting begin?

a. The day before the meeting
b. Right after the previous meeting
c. Two weeks before the meeting
d. One week before the meeting

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Conducting the Meeting

Conducting meetings gets better with time if you adopt best practices.

A few years ago, a safety workshop student mentioned that the first safety committee meeting he ever conducted was an absolute disaster. He didn't have a clue what to do, so he stumbled through the meeting as best he could. But, his fellow committee members were patient and gave him some patient support. After a few months of trial and tribulation, he really mastered the process, and is now much more confident and competent in running the meeting. Below are his best practice suggestions for conducting successful meetings.

Click on the button to see some best practices for conducting safety committee meetings.

  • Arrive early, so you can be ready when others arrive.
  • Set up the room to facilitate group communications.
  • Refreshments? Why not! A small investment that can have large returns.
  • Start on time. Don't wait for stragglers because it only promotes lateness.
  • State purpose and objectives. Helps others focus...stay on target.
  • Establish time limits. Very important for planning.
  • Set and/or re-establish ground rules. A poster works great for this.
  • Review the agenda and set priorities.
  • Stick to the agenda. This should be one of the ground rules. Don't allow off-topic discussions.
  • Assign responsibilities and completion dates. Make sure they are entered into the minutes.
  • Summarize agreements on assignments and completion dates.
  • Limit interruptions. Intervene early, or interruptions will proliferate.
  • Review assignments to clarify expectations.
  • Keep minutes or a written record.
  • Close on time or before if possible. This is important to everyone.

5. Which of the following is NOT a best practice for conducting safety committee meetings?

a. Encouraging members to arrive early
b. Allowing relaxed time limits for discussion
c. Summarizing agreements on assignments
d. Limiting interruptions when someone is speaking

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Establishing Ground Rules

Follow the ground rules or this might happen to you.

Ground rules tell safety committee members about the procedures and behaviors that are acceptable and those that are not. Ground rules must be developed by the members so that they "own" the rules. Ground rules should be written and clearly understood by all members.

You may want to write the ground rules along with the safety committee agenda. Members can review the ground rules as they get ready for the meeting. Below are two basic types of ground rules.

  • Procedural ground rules: These ground rules establish proper procedures for conducting the meeting. Click on the button to see examples of procedural ground rules.

    Procedural ground rules include:

    • timelines for the length of the meeting;
    • timelines for individual presentations;
    • meetings will start and end on time;
    • the flow of business will follow the agenda;
    • focus on meeting safety-related agenda items only;
    • every member has an opportunity to speak;
    • decisions will be based on consensus agreement;
    • one person, one vote.

  • Behavioral ground rules: These ground rules guide behaviors of individual members during the meeting. Click on the button to see examples of behavioral ground rules.

    Behavioral ground rules include:

    • arrive on time;
    • don't interrupt while another person is speaking;
    • raise your hand to be recognized;
    • don't make negative comments about another person or their ideas;
    • focus on what you think does or does not work and give reasons;
    • ask questions. There are no stupid questions.

Old Business

Start by reviewing any old business you might have from the last meeting. Warning, don't let this old business build up as it will send the message that the safety committee is a "do nothing" group. Don't get in the habit of "revisiting" too much.

6. "Do not interrupt while another member is speaking," is an example of a _____.

a. behavioral ground rule
b. meeting guideline
c. procedural ground rule
d. suggested procedure

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New Business

Go around the table and ask what's new.

Here's where the fun begins. Hopefully, new business in your safety committee may include a variety of topics and tasks. Once again, most new business can be expected, but be sure to include a little bit of a surprise to help keep interest. Here are some ideas for new business:

Department hazard reports. Safety committee members don’t understand the valuable contribution they make to the safety culture may limit new business to hazard reports.

OSHA 300 Log Status. Safety committee members may understand the value of the OSHA 300 Log. In fact, most members do not know what the OSHA 300 Log is. Effective safety committees should be trained on the OSHA 300 Log. They should review it during each meeting to help determine trends. (More on this topic in OSHAcademy course 708 OSHA Recordkeeping Basics).

Safety Inspection reports. If your safety committee conducts regular safety inspections, it's important to review the results with them. This can be an excellent opportunity to do some hazard identification and control training. The review of the inspection might include:

  • hazard trends;
  • potential root causes;
  • recommendations for corrective action; and
  • cost/benefit analysis related to corrective actions.

Accident analysis reports. The committee can review and evaluate the quality of the accident analysis report. The committee should not be involved in the determination of negligence or disciplinary actions. Remember, safety committees are consultants, not the police. The main goal of the safety committee is to improve the system, not place blame. When evaluating accident reports, check for:

  • an accurate description of the events leading up to and including the injury event;
  • the surface and root causes of the accident;
  • recommendations for corrective action and system improvement; and
  • cost/benefit analysis.

7. Which of the following would be an inappropriate focus when reviewing accident reports in a committee meeting?

a. Safety program status
b. Finding fault or blame
c. Quality of accident reports
d. Status of safety training

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New Business (Continued)

Analyze the safety management system in meetings.

Program reviews. If members of the safety committee are responsible for evaluating safety programs, they should review the programs quarterly or annually. Program reviews are also very effective in developing continuous improvement strategies.

Evaluate the safety management system. Effective safety committees are involved in evaluating the various elements of a safety management system, which are listed directly below.

  • Commitment: Proactive investment in safety. TMC = time, money, and communications.
  • Accountability: Standards, resources, measurement, consequences, and evaluation.
  • Involvement: Communications, problem-solving, suggesting, etc.
  • Hazard Analysis and Prevention: Inspection, JHA, and control strategies.
  • Accident Analysis and Correction: To fix the system, not the blame.
  • Education and training: Tied to accountability - natural and system consequences.
  • Continuous improvement : To evaluate all other elements.

Discuss new rules. It's important to review any new company policies, government regulations, or industry standards with the safety committee. An educational "heads up" will help members answer potential questions in their departments.

Training. Every safety committee meeting should include some sort of short training session. A short video or presentation by a guest speaker or committee member will increase knowledge, skills, and attitudes. A ten-minute mini-training session may be all that's needed.

8. Which of the following should NOT be placed on the safety committee meeting agenda?

a. Results of accident investigations
b. A list of employees violating safety rules
c. New OSHA rules that apply to work
d. Results of recommendations made

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New Business (Continued)

It's not over until the paperwork is done.


It's not over until the paperwork is done! Once the meeting is over, it's time to begin planning for the next meeting (can't say that too many times). It's important to be communicating with the safety committee throughout the month to:

  • respond to concerns raised;
  • keep in contact with members;
  • discuss whether assignments are being met;
  • get feedback on meeting;
  • make sure minutes are promptly typed, posted, and distributed;
  • thank members who attended;
  • brief absent members; and
  • place unfinished business on the agenda for the next meeting.

Revise and improve: Given all the feedback, the chairperson may more effectively improve the many processes and procedures related to safety committees.

9. When should you discuss unfinished business on the agenda?

a. At the next meeting
b. With management when available
c. After the meeting with each member
d. When convenient via email

Check your Work

Read the material in each section to find the correct answer to each quiz question. After answering all the questions, click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button to grade your quiz and see your score. You will receive a message if you forgot to answer one of the questions. After clicking the button, the questions you missed will be listed below. You can correct any missed questions and check your answers again.


Effective Meetings

Ever wanted to know how to run meetings effectively? This video explains this concept simply and easily in a nutshell. This video was created by Information Design Studio.

Final Exam

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