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.
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.
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:
Establish procedures for conducting quarterly workplace inspections and for making recommendations to management to eliminate or control hazards
As you can see, each role includes a set of expected behaviors. By meeting these expectations, safety committee members fulfill their role.
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!
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.
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