Four Steps to Create a Workplace Safety Committee
Safety committees are required by law in many countries. Some U.S. states require organizations to have safety committees if they have more than a certain number of workers. Federal and provincial regulations in Canada require “Joint Health and Safety Committees”. Many European countries also have requirements for safety committees.
It’s a good practice to create safety committees because they bring management and workers together, and foster a safety culture.
A best practice document from WorkSafeMT outlines the main steps to forming a safety committee:
1) Determine the Structure of the Committee
Each committee should have a chairperson, a vice-chairperson, a secretary, and general members. However, it’s important to note that the committee should be organized according to guidelines established by each organization, its labor agreements, and especially those specified by legislation, where applicable. Remember to consult the legislation that applies to your workplace.
Membership eligibility requirements and terms of service must also be defined. Items to develop or clarify include:
- Representation from different areas and levels of the organization.
- Union participation, if applicable.
- Written position descriptions to clarify roles and responsibilities.
- Criteria for membership and qualification requirements, including training or certification required for members in some jurisdictions.
- Length of individual membership terms and rotation of members. Note that some jurisdictions specify the term lengths.
2) Determine the Size of the Committee
Determine how many members should be part of the committee. Be sure that there is a good balance between managers and workers, and that there is a good representation from different departments and workgroups.
Ideally a safety committee should have between five and 10 members.
3) Select Committee Members
After determining the structure and the size of the safety committee, you’re now ready to select members. You can decide to handpick specific employees who would make good committee members. If you choose this path, be sure that all employee groups and shifts are represented.
Another method consists of sending an open invitation to employees and supervisors, and asking for volunteers. Based on the responses to your invitation, you still may need to ask specific individuals to join the committee.
Finally, remember to periodically rotate members.
4) Involve Top Management
Be sure that top management is a member of the committee. By supporting the safety committee, top management can show that the company has a serious commitment to safety.
If top management chooses not to have a member, then at least they should participate periodically, review meeting minutes, and be available to answer questions from the committee.
Management must give authority to the safety committee, and be sure that the committee’s authority is supported.
After a workplace safety committee has been formed, remember to keep records of meeting minutes, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the committee at least once a year.
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