Building Your Facility Safety Committee
In today’s economy, resources are stretched to the limit and many employees must wear multiple hats. Management commitment of resources for a safety committee is an excellent way to reduce the frequency and severity of workplace injuries and illnesses. Executive Order 52 (99) Workplace Safety and Health mandates the following agency responsibilities:
- “Establish goals to reduce serious occupational injuries and illnesses and to enhance workplace safety;
- “Involve agency employees in identifying workplace hazards and establishing goals to eliminate or reduce them;
- “Develop, maintain, and monitor strategies to minimize the risk of work-related injuries and illnesses….”1
An effective safety committee can play an integral role in reducing the frequency and severity of workplace injuries and illnesses. This can be accomplished by analyzing injury trends, inspecting the facility for hazards, reducing hidden costs associated with workplace injuries, and creating a safety conscious atmosphere.
Once an agency decides to establish a safety committee, the next task is to organize the committee. The number of individuals on a safety committee is flexible. The members should be a collective representation of all departments within the agency. There should be an equal number of managers and/or supervisors and line employees. The best way to get employees involved is to ask for volunteers. These individuals will have a true interest in the purpose and goals of the committee. What happens when not enough employees volunteer? Try to choose members who have shown an interest in safety or have made suggestions to improve safety around the facility.
If recruitment is still difficult, emphasize the importance and influence of safety committee members:
- Opportunity to make the workplace safer
- Development and revision of facility safety rules and procedures
- Participating in accident investigations
- Reporting hazards
- Conducting facility inspections/audits
- A voice for the work group
Being a member of the safety committee should not be punitive; members should not be “chosen” because they have experienced an accident. Membership on this committee should be viewed as a privilege.
Regular meeting attendance of committee members is mandatory. If a member is unable to attend, a substitute representative should be sent. Inactive or non-participating members should be replaced with individuals that have a true interest in safety. Encourage members to be active participants and allow everyone to speak.
Once members have been selected, a meeting time and location should be established. Meetings should be scheduled at the same time, on the same day (e.g., second Wednesday of every month at 10:00 a.m.). Establishing a set time and day will allow committee members to plan ahead and possibly eliminate an excuse for not attending. There must also be tangible manager support for employees to attend these meetings so there is no conflict in workload or schedule. Monthly meetings are encouraged; however, the meetings should be scheduled to suit the agency’s needs.
A standard meeting agenda should be developed so that members can prepare for the meeting. The agenda for each agency will be different depending on the goals set by the committee. An agenda will help eliminate non-safety items, such as maintenance issues, staffing shortages, complaints and compensation. A set agenda will help the committee focus on the purpose of the meeting.
Select one individual at the first meeting to be the secretary of the group. This individual is responsible for taking minutes at every meeting and distributing those minutes to the committee members and senior level management. These minutes should include action items, specific individuals assigned, and follow-up. Distributing the minutes to management is a way to maintain support for the committee.
Once established, the safety committee needs to define its purpose and establish goals. The purpose of the committee must be well defined and specific. Many committees define its purpose as simply to address workplace safety. This is a broad topic and the committee should specify what aspects of workplace safety they are going to address. Some examples include:
- Fleet safety
- Environmental issues
- Disaster recovery
- Accident investigation
- Accident analysis
- Employee safety complaints
- Safety inspections/audits
Establishing goals for a safety committee is often difficult. Remember, goals should be realistic, achievable, and measurable. The Office of Workers’ Compensation has published a series of articles entitled, “Analyzing Workers’ Compensation Claims and Developing Loss Control Strategies Series.” This series can help the safety committee focus on its goals and strategies. There are four parts to the series, and they include:
- Accident Analysis: The Details Are In The Data
- System Safety – Analyzing Risks and Exposures
- Developing Goals and Strategic Plans to Address Injuries and Illnesses
- Strategies, Implementation and Evaluation
Ideally, the safety committee should set goals that focus on hazards, work practices and other best practices that contribute to reducing the frequency and severity of workplace injuries and illnesses. Periodically, the safety committee should evaluate its purpose and goals to ensure it remains on track with established goals.
When an unsafe condition or act is reported or a recommendation is made, the safety committee should recommend corrective action and then follow up to ensure the hazard is eliminated. If a recommendation is made and no action taken, the committee should investigate and determine when the hazard will be corrected. The committee should consider alternative recommendations to meet the needs of the agency. Good two-way communication about why corrective action is not taken relieves much of the frustration of committee members and employees.
Whether you are just starting a safety committee or already have one established, use this article as a guideline to get the most out of your agency’s safety committee.
1 Virginia Department of Planning and Budget. (1999, October). Commonwealth of Virginia, Office of the Governor, Executive Order 52, Workplace Safety and Health. Retrieved May 17, 2004, from Virginia Department of Planning & Budget, Executive Orders online via: http://www.dpb.state.va.us.
The following videos are available through the lending library: (http://www.dhrm.virginia.gov)
- Pro-Active Safety: The Self-Inspection
- Pro-Active Safety in Action: Accidents Don’t Have to Happen
- Safety Meeting: Give ‘Em What They Want
- Target Zero: Pro-Active Safety Attitudes
- The Pro-Active Safety Committee: A Team for Success
National Safety Council (1996). Accident Prevention Manual for Business & Industry, Administration & Programs. United States of America.
National Safety Council (1994). Public Employee Safety & Health Management. United States of America.
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