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Course 707 - Effective OSH Committee Meetings

Rules for Safety Committee Meetings

What do the rules say?

To set the foundation for the rest of the course, let's take a look at a few OSHA rules regarding Safety Committee Duties and Functions. Federal OSHA has not published mandatory rules requiring safety committees. Some "State Plan" states require safety committees and Federal/Provincial OSH agencies in Canada also require safety committees. Let's start with some of the State Plan rules.

Oregon

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If you have 20 or fewer employees you must have at least 2 members. If you have more than 20 employees you must have at least 4 members.

You must have an equal number of employer-selected members and employee-elected or volunteer members. If both parties agree, the committee may have more employee-elected or volunteer members.

The safety committee members must:

  • Have a majority agree on a chairperson;
  • Serve a minimum of one year, when possible;
  • Be compensated at their regular rate of pay;
  • Have training in the principles of accident and incident investigations;
  • Have training in hazard identification;
  • Be provided with meeting minutes;
  • Represent major activities of your business.

Your safety committee must meet on company time as follows:

  • Quarterly in situations where employees do mostly office work.
  • Monthly for all other situations (except the months when quarterly worksite inspections are performed).

You must keep written records of each safety committee meeting for three years that include:

  • Names of attendees;
  • Meeting date;
  • All safety and health issues discussed, including tools, equipment, work environment, and work practice hazards;

  • Recommendations for corrective action and a reasonable date by which management agrees to respond;

  • Person responsible for follow up on any recommended corrective actions;
  • All reports, evaluations and recommendations made by the committee.

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1. Oregon's safety committee guidelines suggest that it's a good idea to _____.

a. allow no more than 4 people on the safety committee
b. have an equal number of management and employee members
c. meet after normal workday or shift hours
d. have management choose the chairperson

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What do the rules say? (Continued)

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Washington State

Follow these rules to conduct safety meetings. You must:

Do the following for safety meetings.

  • Hold safety meetings monthly. You may meet more often to discuss safety issues as they come up.
  • Include at least one management representative.

Cover these topics.

  • Review safety and health inspection reports to help correct safety hazards.
  • Evaluate the accident investigations conducted since the last meeting to determine if the cause(s) of the unsafe situation was identified and corrected.

  • Evaluate your workplace accident and illness prevention program and discuss recommendations for improvement, if needed.

  • Document attendance.
  • Write down subjects discussed.

2. Based on Oregon and Washington State rules, how often are safety committees expected to hold meetings?

a. Weekly or quarterly
b. Monthly or annually
c. Weekly or monthly
d. Monthly or quarterly

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What do the rules say? (Continued)

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Safety Committee Meeting Requirements in Canada

The Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations SOR/86-304, requires safety committees for individual work places.

  • Employers with 20 or more regular employees must establish local safety committees.
  • A Policy Safety Committee is required for all private and public sector employers with 300 or more employees. Policy committees address issues that, because of their nature, cannot be dealt with by local safety committees.

Each work place health and safety committee is required to meet 9 times a year, at regular intervals and during regular working hours. If circumstances make additional meetings necessary, they should be held during or outside regular hours, whatever is required. The committee is led by two chairpersons, one of whom is chosen by the employer-members and the other by the employee-members.

  • The employer must ensure the availability in the work place of premises, equipment and personnel for the efficient operation of the committee.
  • The committee can establish its own rules of procedure pertaining to the administration and operation of the committee (e.g., meeting times and places).
  • The committee must keep accurate records of all matters that come before it, as well as minutes of all meetings. They are to be made available to a health and safety officer if they are requested.
  • The minutes of each safety and health committee meeting shall be signed by the two chairmen.

3. How often are safety committees in Canada required to meet?

a. Monthly
b. Regularly
c. Nine times a year
d. Quarterly

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A Word About Commitment

meeting
Commitment and sense of purpose help make meetings successful.

Okay, so the rules aren't that interesting. That's because they're typically written by lawyers for lawyers for the benefit of lawyers (a little lawyer humor there ;-).

Notice that the previous rules require a certain level of management commitment to workplace health and safety. What is commitment? In this course it means investing the time and money it takes for safety committees to meet regularly. Remember, every employer activity requires a commitment of resources.

It's important for safety committees to return the biggest "bang for the buck" possible to the employer. They do that by making sure safety committee meetings are effective. What does "effective" mean here? In this context, it may be thought of as producing well-written recommendations for improving safety programs.

If your employer sees value in conducting safety committee meetings, the time and money invested in safety committee meetings will increase. If the employer sees the safety committee meeting as a waste of time, don't expect enthusiastic commitment. Let's discuss ways to fine-tune safety committee meetings so they produce valuable results.

4. How does the safety committee demonstrate a real commitment to safety?

a. Enforcement of safety rules
b. Regular effective meetings
c. Well-written minutes
d. Decreasing workers' compensation costs

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How often do safety committees meet?

How NOT to Run a Meeting

As you can see, most safety committees must meet once a month. Most, but not all committees meet once a month. Some meet more often. Remember, you can always do things that "exceed" OSHA minimum requirements. A basic guideline in determining how frequent to meet states, "the greater the risk (or change) in the workplace, the more frequently we should meet."

The degree of risk in the workplace is determined by evaluating probability, severity, and exposure. You can find more on this topic in Online Course 704, Hazard Analysis and Control. For instance, in many situations like construction sites, logging operations, and some types of manufacturing, safety committees find it wise to meet more often than once a month.

Should the safety committee meet after a safety inspection?

Absolutely! Best practices suggests that it's most effective if the safety committee conducts a meeting immediately after the inspection to:

  • discuss findings
  • ensure identified hazards are reported to responsible supervisors or managers
  • analyze findings and discuss their possible root causes
  • make recommendations to improve safety programs

5. After conducting a safety inspection, the committee should meet to do each of the following EXCEPT _____.

a. making recommendations to improve safety programs
b. ensuring identified hazards are reported to responsible supervisors
c. analyzing findings and discussing their possible root causes
d. reporting names of employees violating safety rules

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"Safety Meeting" vs. "Safety Committee Meeting"

meeting
"Tailgate" meetings vs. committee meetings.

We occasionally hear confusion about what constitutes a safety meeting vs a safety committee meeting. There is a difference:

  • A safety meeting (also called a "tailgate" or "toolbox" meeting) includes some or all employees and usually a management person to ensure that important safety issues are addressed. The primary reason for the meeting is to update employees on safety policies, procedures, rules, and expectations for the day. However, The safety meeting may also include general safety instruction and training.
  • The safety committee meeting is conducted by a formal, structured group of individuals who meet regularly to conduct safety-related business such as discussing the results of safety inspections/investigations, considering safety suggestions, and conducting safety committee training. The meeting gives everyone a voice but keeps the meeting size to an effective number of participants.

6. Which meeting is typically an informal gathering of most or all employees to get updates on safety policies, procedures, rules, and expectations for the day?

a. safety committee meeting
b. human resources meeting
c. business meeting
d. safety meeting

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