Many organizations trying to achieve the goal of zero employee injuries will create a Safety Committee. Safety Committees meet regularly to review accidents and discuss what may have caused them, but all too often they fail to enact meaningful changes to the policies, procedures and culture of an organization.
Safety Committees are not only an effective strategy to improve the health and wellness of your organization, but incredibly effective in controlling the cost of workers' compensation premiums. By minimizing employee injuries and promoting a culture of caring, productivity and profits improve, while the cost of workers' compensation decreases for years to come.
Today, we add the challenge of working remotely and how to integrate that into a successful meeting. To build a successful and effective Safety Committee, it must have the following 3 key components:
Committees with strong and visible support from senior management are more likely to be successful. Leadership within the committee itself is important as well.
A chairperson who is responsible, organized, and detail-oriented should be nominated.
Ideally, a Safety Committee will have the authority to mandate different equipment, training, or policies to keep the workforce safe and healthy.
Responsibilities of the Chairperson
- The chairperson has the responsibility of setting the date, time and meeting format(Zoom,WebEx, MS Teams, Google Meet, etc.) for the committee. Preferably for the same time period each month, such as the second Tuesday of each month at 10am.
- The chairperson should send out a meeting invite with a link to join to all members well ahead of time so they can be prepared to fully participate. Your invite should include a pre-meeting reminder at 15- or 30-minutes prior to the meeting.
- The chairperson is also responsible for setting the agenda of each meeting (see agenda topics below.)
- The agenda should be shared with all committee members well ahead of time with the instruction that members review and add items they feel need discussion.
Many committees are management heavy without representation from the workers that are facing hazards on a daily basis. It is great idea to build a Safety Committee with at least 50% membership from front-line workers to get feedback on what works and does not work.
The New York Safety Patient Handling Act requires safety committees at nursing homes and hospitals in the state to evaluate how patients are lifted and the committees must be comprised of a minimum of 50% front-line employees.
If meeting virtually...encourage members to meet with cameras on. This creates a more team-oriented approach and forces people to focus on meeting rather then multi-tasking off-camera.
Often large committees are difficult to focus and this is especially true when working remotely. Keep the committee to one representative from each department or division. If you find that the committee is facing a challenge for which they cannot find a solution, stop discussing it as a group and assign a small subcommittee to meet separately.
3. Set Goals
A clear goal can be helpful in focusing the committee. Obviously, the ultimate goal of the committee should be to have zero injuries for the organization, but smaller goals are effective and impactful. Some safety committee goals could be:
- Getting employees to wear the proper PPE at all times,
- Eliminating the need for employees to perform manual lifting, or
- Stretching before shift and scheduling breaks.
Designating a subcommittee to handle specific safety concerns is an effective way of assigning accountability to make sure task at hand is completed. A subcommittee should be a small group who takes initiative researching the problem by speaking with employees not in the committee, searching the internet, contacting a safety specialist, etc. The safety committee should be given a deadline and budget to address the problem. They should then share their findings at the next safety committee meeting!
The chairperson must also be goal-oriented in constructing the agendas for each meeting. Agenda topics that should be included:
- Reviewing Accidents
- Reviewing Inspection Results
- Planning Safety Meeting Dates
- Regulatory Issues
- New Business from the Committee Members