One of the most important factors that impacts the success of the safety committee is the quality of the 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. The safety committee is certainly not immune from being perceived as a waste of time, so it's important that the safety committee chairperson conduct an effective meeting. 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!
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?" Role also determines 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, a wish might be to, "increase awareness." An operational objective supporting this goal might be, "Educate all employees in our plant about direct and indirect accident costs by the end of the year." We can observe the training process. We're going to train all employees. We're going to do this by the end of the year.
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.
Clear communication: Does the safety chairperson use all mediums effectively to communicate details of the meeting before, during and after it occurs? Agendas, handouts, videos, guests, and ground rules all help to 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 all know the safety committee chair can't do it all. It's extremely important that everyone be involved in the meeting process. Active involvement will happen only 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 wannabes," and in fact, 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.
The preparation for the safety committee meeting begins as soon as it's over. What? That's right. As soon as the meeting is over, the effective chairperson will begin preparing 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.
A few years ago, we had a conversation with a student in one of my safety workshops. He mentioned that the first meeting he 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 "tips for conducting successful meetings."
Ground rules tell safety committee members about the procedures that are followed and behaviors that are acceptable or not acceptable. It's crucial ground rules 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.
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.
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 committees that have a limited understanding of the valuable contribution they can make to the safety culture usually limit new business to hazard reports.
OSHA 300 Log Status: In my years of educating safety committees, I have found that most safety committee members do not understand the value of the OSHA 300 Log. In fact, most members do not know what the OSHA 300 Log is. Effective safety committees are trained on the OSHA 300 Log and review it during each meeting to help determine trends. (More on this topic in OSHAcademy course 708 OSHA Recordkeeping Basics).
Safety Inspection report: If your safety committee conducts regular safety inspections, it's important to review the results with the safety committee. This can be an excellent opportunity to do some hazard identification and control training. The review of the inspection might include:
Accident analysis reports: The committee can review and evaluate the quality of the accident analysis report. I don't recommend the committee be involved in any way with determination of negligence or disciplinary actions. Remember, the safety committee is a consultant group, not a policing group. The main goal of the safety committee is to improve the system, not place blame. When evaluating accident reports, check for:
Program reviews: If members of the safety committee are responsible for monitoring and evaluating various safety programs such as the Hazard Communication Program, Confined Space Program, or PPE Program, a quarterly or annual review of the program is not only informative, it's educational. And, program reviews are very effective continuous improvement strategies.
Evaluate safety management system: Effective safety committees are involved in evaluating the various activity elements of a safety management system, which are listed directly below.
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 help to increase knowledge, skills, and attitudes. A five- or ten-minute mini-training session may be all that's needed.
It's not over until the paper work 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:
Revise and improve: Given all the feedback, the chairperson may more effectively improve the many processes and procedures related to safety committees.
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