Safetip #15: Define the Purposes of a Safety Committee
Safety Committees Are Required by Law in Some Jurisdictions
Safety committees bring together workers and employers through regularly scheduled meetings where safety issues are addressed. The goal of a safety committee is to create and nurture a culture of safety. Companies above a certain number of employees are required by law in many U.S. states to establish safety committees. In Canada, federal and provincial legislation includes requirements and guidelines for “Joint Health and Safety Committees”. Many European countries also require safety committees. Even if an organization operates in a jurisdiction that does not have an explicit requirement for safety committees, it is still a best practice to have them.
Clearly Defined Purposes Keep Safety Committees Focused
Some jurisdictions that require safety committees have done a good job of clearly defining the purposes and objectives of safety committees. But if you’re in a jurisdiction that does not require safety committees, or if the jurisdiction has not clearly defined the purposes of a safety committee, there is a risk that the safety committee simply becomes a discussion forum without contributing to safety culture. To prevent this from happening, clearly define and document the purposes of your organization’s safety committees. Here is a very good list provided by WorkSafeMT that you can use as a basis, or to complement what you already have:
- Promote and maintain the interest of employees in health and safety issues.
- Educate managers, supervisors and employees through awareness and training activities that they are primarily responsible for the prevention of workplace accidents.
- Help make health and safety activities an integral part of the organization’s operating procedures, culture and programs.
- Provide an opportunity for the free discussion of health and safety problems and possible solutions.
- Inform and educate employees and supervisors about health and safety issues, new standards, research findings, etc.
- Help reduce the risk of workplace injuries and illnesses.
- Help ensure compliance with federal and state health and safety standards.
Here are links to additional resources on safety committees, some of which were used for this post:
- Best Practices for Workplace Safety Committees (PDF document)
- Nine best practices to make your safety committee more effective
- What is a Joint Health and Safety Committee?
- Oregon OSHA’s quick guide to safety committees and safety meetings
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