This week’s Safetip is about safety committees and five steps on how to form a committee. One of our previous Safetips was about . The steps outlined in this post are from the paper Best Practices for Workplace Safety Committees prepared by WorkSafeMT, a nonprofit organization focused on improving workplace safety in the state of Montana.
1) Determine the Structure of the Safety Committee
A safety committee should include the following: 1) Chairperson, 2) Vice Chairperson, 3) Secretary, and 4) General Members. The General Members should be made up of individuals from various areas and levels of the organization that represent administration, operating departments and staff personnel. In addition, membership eligibility requirements and terms of service must be clearly defined (i.e. membership selection process, qualification requirements, length of individual membership terms and rotation of membership procedures). These criteria should cover all membership positions, including the four mentioned above. Finally, general membership on the committee should be established on a rotation basis.
2) Determine the Optimum Size of the Committee
The next step consists of determining the ideal number of people to be part of the committee. If a joint labor-management safety committee is being formed, it is important to maintain balance in the number of representatives from each group. Representatives from various departments and work groups should be included. A target of five to ten committee members is ideal.
3) Determine the Specific Committee Members
Once the structure and size of the safety committee are determined, it is now time to select the members. There are a number of methods to do this:
- Handpick the specific employees that would make good committee members. Make sure to represent all work groups and shifts.
- Issue an open invitation to employees and supervisory personnel, asking for volunteers. Depending on the response, specific individuals may still be asked to join the committee.
Regardless of the method used, members should be periodically rotated on and off the committee.
4) Involve Top Management
Top management should be a member of the committee. If top management decides not to be a member of the committee, it should at least attend the initial meeting and visit periodically afterwards. Top management should also review the meeting minutes and be available to respond to questions and concerns from the committee. Most importantly, management must establish the authority of the committee and then support it.
5) Conduct the Initial Safety Committee Meeting
Once the safety committee is established, the first meeting can take place. The following important items should be covered at a minimum:
- Setting a schedule for the committee to meet (e.g. once a month at a given date and time) that is as convenient as possible for all members.
- Determining who will be the committee officers (Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, Secretary).
- Discussing and prioritizing the duties of the committee (e.g. facility self-inspections, development of written safety programs, incident reviews).
- Determining the need for subcommittees to take responsibility for some of the priority items.
Finally, remember to review the progress of the committee at least annually. Each year, the safety committee’s progress should be reviewed in order to evaluate the committee’s success in helping the organization meet its safety goals and objectives.
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