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Course 707 - Effective OSH Committee Meetings

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

Roles and Responsibilities

What role do you play?

We all play many roles.

Safety committee members need to understand the role of the safety committee and what role they personally play as a member of the committee. Unless the safety committee's role is understood by all members, it's difficult to effectively carry out assigned responsibilities which achieve the safety committee's purpose.

Roles describes who we are

The term, role, describes who we are. At home, we may play the role of a spouse, coach, father, or mother. At work, our position largely determines the role we are expected to play.

As you learned in Course 701, Safety Committee Operations, the most effective safety committee performs the role of an internal consultant team to the employer. On the other hand, the least effective safety committee will function as an internal, fault-finding, cop squad.

It's essential to understand your role if you want to design the most effective safety committee meetings. Can you imagine what a meeting would look like if members believed they were all junior OSHA inspectors that had to control things? The meeting would be very different than one in which the safety committee acted like a consultant team.

Safety Committee Member Duties: Each has an important role to play.

How NOT to Run a Meeting

Each member of the safety committee must understand the very important role they play within the safety committee. There are no unimportant positions. Let's take a quick look at some different roles and associated responsibilities in a safety committee:


  • Schedules monthly meetings
  • Develops agendas for meetings
  • Conducts monthly meetings


  • Assumes chair's duties when the chair is absent
  • Coordinates training for new representatives
  • Performs other duties assigned by the chair

Safety Committee Members Duties (Continued)

Six Rules for Effective Meetings


  • Takes minutes at each meeting
  • Distributes copies of minutes to representatives
  • Posts minutes for other employees to review
  • Maintains the safety-committee file
  • Keeps minutes and agendas on file for three years

Committee Representatives

  • Report employees´ safety and health concerns to the committee
  • Report accidents, near miss incidents, and unsafe workplace conditions to the committee
  • Suggest items to include in the monthly meeting agenda
  • Encourage employees to report workplace hazards and suggest how to control them
  • Establish procedures for conducting quarterly workplace inspections and for making recommendations to management to eliminate or control hazards

  • Help management evaluate the company´s safety and health program and recommend how to improve it
  • Establish procedures for investigating the causes of accidents and near-miss incidents

As you can see, each role includes a set of expected behaviors. By meeting these expectations, safety committee members fulfill their role.

Safety Committee Purpose: What you intend to do

DOH! That was not supposed to happen.

So we know who we are: what role we play. Now we can better figure out what we are going to do to fulfill our role as an effective internal consultant group. First, let's take a look at the subtle difference between two important terms: purpose and function. You will hear these terms from time to time and it's easy to think of them as meaning the same thing. However, they actually mean something different. What's the difference?

  • Purpose is defined as an intended outcome. What does the safety committee intend to do?

  • Function refers to the actual outcome. What does the safety committee actually do?

So, why do we need to know how these two concepts relate to each other? Well, the safety committee may intend to have successful meetings, but if the meetings are not planned well, the activity may actually function to reduce rather than increase safety committee effectiveness. Just remember, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Unless we carefully plan safety committee activities, no matter how well intended, they may actually fail. And, that, my friend, is a total waste of time and money. The boss won't like that!

Safety Committee Meeting Purpose (Continued)

Management and labor must work together.

If the safety committee is able to effectively accomplish each purpose, they can serve as a catalyst to improve the safety management system and they can literally "transform" your safety culture. Lets see how the safety committee meeting "fits" into the purpose statement:

  • The safety committee meeting is the time and place to bring management and labor together. This is a major idea. Management and labor must be talking with each other. The more the two groups talk, the more they understand each other. Why is it important to talk? Think about this principle: "If you keep people in the dark, they think the worst." If management and labor are not talking, they will think the worst about each other.

  • The meeting should reflect a cooperative working relationship between management and labor. It's essential (I call it the prime directive) that safety committees help build understanding and trust between labor and management. W. Edward's Deming, in his book, Out of the Crisis, states that to achieve true operational quality, the employer must "drive out fear" in the workplace. Increased cooperation, not competition, between management and labor is a crucial criteria in every action the safety committee takes.

  • The meeting is the primary communication tool used to help promote safety and health in the workplace. There are many ways to "promote" safety and health. The meeting can be the place to design and implement ideas and activities that can increase employee awareness and attitudes about safety.

  • Finally, a primary activity in each meeting is to develop recommendations to improve safety and health programs within the safety management system. Helping your employer improve the safety management system is probably the most important long-term goal of the safety committee. Meetings need to be designed to allow time for analysis and evaluation of safety and health programs so that effective recommendations can be written.


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. The role of the safety committee is that of a _____, not a _____.

2. W. Edwards Deming states quality in the workplace will not be achieved unless we first rid the workplace of _____.

3. This term is defined as an "intended" result.

4. Each of the following is a purpose of the safety committee, except _____.

5. The "prime directive" for safety committees is to _____.

Have a great day!

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