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Course 707 - Effective Safety Committee Meetings

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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.

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.

What do the rules say? (Continued)

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Canada - Federal Regulations

Minutes

The minutes of each safety and health committee meeting shall be signed by the two chairmen referred to in subsection 5(1).

The chairman selected by the representatives of the employer shall provide, as soon as possible after each safety and health committee meeting, a copy of the minutes referred to in subsection (1) to the employer and to each member of the safety and health committee.

The employer shall, as soon as possible after receiving a copy of the minutes referred to in subsection (2), post a copy of the minutes in the conspicuous place or places in which the employer has posted the information referred to in subsection 135(5) of the Act and keep the copy posted there for one month.

A copy of the minutes referred to in subsection (1) shall be kept by the employer at the work place to which it applies or at the head office of the employer for a period of two years from the day on which the safety and health committee meeting is held in such a manner that it is readily available for examination by a safety officer. SOR/89-480, s. 5; SOR/95-438, s. 4(F).

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 ;-).

Seriously, notice the previous rules require a certain level of management commitment to workplace health and safety. What is commitment? Well, 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. In this course, we'll discuss ways to fine-tune safety committee meetings so they produce valuable results.

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

"Safety Meeting" vs. "Safety Committee Meeting"

meeting
Safety meetings vs. safety committee meetings.

Throughout my years of training, I occasionally hear confusion about what constitutes a safety meeting and safety committee meeting. There is a difference:

  • A safety meeting includes some or all employees and usually a management person to ensure that important safety issues are addressed. The purpose of the safety meeting may include general safety instruction and training, but the primary reason for the meeting is to inform employees about safety policies, rules, expectations, etc.

  • The safety committee meeting is conducted by a formal, structured group of individuals who meet to conduct safety-related business. This gives everyone a voice but keeps the meeting size to an effective number of participants.

Instructions

Read the module exercise and complete the assignments below in your own words. Submit your assignments and compare your answers with the "book" answers.

Good luck!

1. Usually, safety committees conduct meetings at least once a _____.

2. Which of the following employers would most likely need to conduct weekly safety committee meetings?

3. In Oregon, the safety committee must hold the regularly scheduled meeting unless they _____.

4. Best practices suggest that it's most effective if the safety committee holds a meeting immediately after the inspection to do all of the following, except _____.

5. This activity includes all employees in a department or the company for the purpose of conducting general safety instruction and training, and to inform employees about safety policies, rules, and expectations.


Have a great day!

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