Dealing with safety committee charters can feel like a really tough chore as a safety manager. Personally, I felt that it was the bane of my existence.
But once I’ve learned how to do it the right way, it became one of the most effective tools in my arsenal. So, let’s talk about how to do it the right way.
The Importance of a Safety Committee Charter
Before we dive into the key parts of a successful charter, let’s talk about why it’s important to have a safety committee charter even though it’s not a necessity.
The first reason is that a safety committee charter sets you up for success by providing the committee with a clear structure.
This is because it contains the goals and the general direction of the committee, thus preventing any confusion and giving everyone a clear sense of direction.
Another important reason is that committee charters give authority to those leading the safety committee in implementing safety policies in the company. It ensures that the management has the support of what the committee is doing. And that other employees will listen to the committee’s instructions.
7 Key Parts of a Successful Committee Charter
The charter should contain a mission or vision statement that contains the reason why the committee was built. And this keeps everyone on the same page and has that sense of the committee’s direction.
From my experience reading the mission or vision statements every meeting is a great procedure to keep everyone grounded and on the same page.
Scope & Purpose
The committee charter should contain a scope that defines the area of the business in which the committee has authority or jurisdiction. This is very important, especially for large companies which have different departments and businesses.
The chart should also contain a purpose that serves as the reason why you’re doing the committee. This can be due to various reasons such as compliance, creating a new safety program, or improving the work environment. It really depends on what you want to achieve.
Roles & Responsibilities
All roles and their responsibilities should be clearly outlined in the charter. But in its most basic form, there are 3 key roles in a safety committee:
- Chairperson – the person who runs the committee
- Co-Chairperson – the partner of the chairperson and steps in when the chairperson is not available
- Secretary – in charge of managing and disseminating documents and information of the safety committee
The charter should contain a clear statement about the frequency of the safety committee meetings. Keep in mind that the frequency should depend upon the needs of the committee. And the meeting schedule should contain who is responsible for setting up everyone for the meeting.
The duties listed in the committee charter should be stated in a way that’s a little broad which allows them to have room to become effective.
The charter should contain a clear set of expectations from members of the safety committee. So that it gives them a sense of accountability and that they’ll responsibly carry out their duties.
The charter should create a list of specific procedures to be done by the safety committee members. It should serve as a guide or a path for the members to follow.
How to Properly Use a Safety Committee Charter
Once the charter is approved the next step is to safety committee charter, here are some tips on how to properly use it
- Use it as a training tool for employees
- Make sure that the executive management understands it through training
- Read a part of the committee charter during safety meetings
With all these things in mind, we don’t need to be afraid of charters. Because when properly made and implemented, it’s a very effective tool for ensuring the success of the safety committee.
Safety Committee Charter
Safety Brye: [00:00:00] In my opinion, safety committees are one of the hardest things to get right. We know that there are benefits to having one, but the amount of work they take, it almost feels like they're just not worth it, you know, over and over again, you keep trying, but in the end, it's still the safety manager show where you walk away with a super long to-do list.
That is like twice as big as when you walked in. A lot of times I used to dread going to the safety committee meeting because I was like, I don't want any more. All my friend, maybe it's because you didn't start it with the right structure. So stick around and let me share a few things with you. Hey, there, safety friends.
Welcome to the safety geek podcast. I'm Brye Sargent CSP and 20 years safety professional. After spending years training safety leaders across the globe for a large corporation and creating safety programs from the ground up, over and over again, I am now sharing my processes
[00:01:00] and strategies with you. At the Safety Geek you will learn how to manage an effective safety program that increases your management support and employee engagement all the while helping you elevate your position and move up in your career. If you're ready to step into the role of a safety influencer and leader, you're in the right place. Let's get to it.
Hello. Hello. Hello and welcome to the safety geek podcast. This is Brye, your number one safety geek. And I am super excited to be here with you today. Uh, safety committees, these used to be the bane of my existence, but what I did is I actually sought out the best safety committees and learned how to do this, the absolute right way.
So today's question comes from Randall. And his question was actually a two or three parter. So I will likely have a followup episode and I'll be working on a
[00:02:00] complimentary course as well, but that's like a year off from now. So in the meantime, if you have a question like Randall did, you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will get that and I will add it to my list. Just like Randall sent me this one, he asked about a lot of things about safety committees, but I'm going to start off with the foundation, which is what is a committee charter. I'm going to start off with the foundation of your committee, which is the committee charter.
And he did ask me to kind of speak about the committee charter. And it will tell you a lot of times people will start a safety committee and they won't have a charter. So having a charter is not necessarily a necessity. I was going to change my wording there, but not necessarily a necessity. It just doesn't sound right.
Having a committee charter is not an essential piece. It's not necessary. However, it does kind of set you up for success. So I think it is a good thing to have. So let's start off with what a
[00:03:00] committee charter is. And basically it looks like a policy, but it's a document that lays out the goals and the missions of the committee and it outlines how they will operate.
And the thing about the charter is all the members have to agree with the charter. So it's very similar to a policy where like, if you think about it, you have all the management team agreeing to the policy. In this case, it's everybody that's on the committee that they agree to what this charter is. And this mission is it really only needs to be a few pages long.
You never want to get too detailed in your charter because it's then going to handcuff the committee. But you want to make sure that they have something in writing that gives them a little bit of authority. So what this charter does and the reason why you want to have one is that it ends confusion. So there's never any confusion about what the committee's purposes and why it's there.
And it allows for other people to lead safety. A lot of times your other employees or your management team, they may be thinking like, why am I listening to this safety committee
[00:04:00] member? Well, they have a charter that is giving them that authority. So that way they can lead safety in this one area, whatever it may be.
So it's kind of important to have one because it is giving that authority to the committee. And on top of it, it sets expectations, not only for the committee members, but it sets expectations for the management team to make sure that they listen to the committee and that they follow the committee's recommendations or at least consider the committee's recommendations.
Now the key parts of a charter are the mission scope, the roles, the meeting schedule, the duties they expectations, and then the actual procedures. So let's take this one by one. The first part of that charter needs to be a mission or a vision. This is the statement of the committee, and I will tell you when I had my charter, my chairperson started every single meeting, reading.The mission and the vision of
[00:05:00] the committee, it kept everybody grounded. Like, why are we even here? This is why next is the scope and the purpose. This makes it sound like a policy, but you want to make sure that you're defining the scope, especially if that scope is not all encompassing of your company.
So sometimes a safety committee, their scope might be within a certain area of the business. Like just the safety sensitive parts of the business. And they don't have any scope where it comes to like customer service or sales or office or something like that. That may be your decision, but it sets out that scope.
And then the purpose being why they are there, not necessarily the mission because the mission and the vision is like the future vision of what they're trying to create. The purpose is like the why, why are we doing this committee? And the purpose may be because your state requires it. But it may also be because you want to include employee participation and feedback in your safety program.
It might also be that you want to have a well-rounded safety program. That includes
[00:06:00] views from all areas of the business. It may also be because you want to have fresh eyes on different departments. So that way you make sure that it isn't just the same warehouse workers looking in the warehouse. Or the same truck drivers looking in the trucking.
It's switching that up. You decide what that purpose is and what that scope is and make sure that you define that. The next section is roles and responsibilities of the members. Now you're going to end up having three very key members to your safety committee. You're going to have the chairperson who basically runs the committee.
They are the people that set the agenda that organize the meeting, all of that good stuff. Then you're going to have a co-chair who steps in when the chairperson is not available. They may also partner up with the chairperson when they are available. I believe both of those roles should be employee led and not supervisor led, but that's a whole another discussion.
And then your third key member is the secretary who is going to be taking down all of the minutes of the meeting, making sure
[00:07:00] that they get approved and posted and shared with everybody who needs to see them, your chairperson and your co-chair may also present committee projects and committee happenings and recommendations to your executive committee.
So you want to lay out what those roles are and what you expect out of each of those roles. Now you can add different roles in there. You can add in, like, I don't know, the team lead for each department or something like that. Maybe you have, you know, a construction department. Maybe you have a project management department, maybe you have a productivity department and something like that.
And you have a team lead for each one and you want to lay down some rules and some responsibility for each of them in there. I believe you need representation from all those departments, but I don't think that they need to have a clear title in your committee unless you're talking about a very large operation.
So three-year-olds are generally good enough chairperson co-chair and secretary. And if you notice, I didn't put you in any of those roles, it should be an employee committee you're invited. You're not a member,
[00:08:00] but whole other discussion. Right. Okay. Next is. The meeting schedule. How often is your committee going to meet?
When are they going to meet? How flexible is this meeting schedule? Are you going to make it so stringent that they have to meet by the third Friday of every month? Or is it going to be you just meet once every four weeks or maybe you want them to meet every two weeks? Maybe you add some flexibility in there and you say me as often as needed, but a minimum of once every four weeks, whatever it needs to be.
So make sure that you have a meeting schedule in there. And in that meeting schedule, it should lay out who's responsible for setting that schedule and communicating that meaning to other members. You might put that in roles and responsibilities as well. And next is duties. Now, this is where I want to warn you.
You want to make sure that you are very broad when you're listing their duties. Their duties and responsibilities need to allow room for them to be effective. So their duties could include things of things like inspecting the entire facility once every quarter, or
[00:09:00] creating a safety improvement project once every month. Whatever it happens to be. I know what I like to have my committee members do, which is do inspections, but I also like them to do observations and assessments and we kind of split it up. So that way they're doing a little bit every month and we actually give them the homework in between meetings. So it's not like they're doing this work in the meeting.
And that leads me to expectations. That's the next step. So under expectations, you might have things that like, I expect them to have improvement projects. I expect them to be completing these inspections and follow up inspections and communicating hazards found to the appropriate people. I expect them to communicate their meeting minutes to the employees.
I also expect them to report to the executive advisory committee once a month and tell them what's going on. Or I expect them to be properly trained. That's another great one would safety committees is that you want to make sure that you have put them through the proper training to be on the committee, and you might
[00:10:00] even have some expectations in there for inclusion or diversity. So that way you make sure that you're including everybody from every department and that you have diversity in gender and race. So that way you get a full view of what's going on in your workplace, you don't want to always be hearing from the same type of people. And the last section of your charter is procedures.
What should they do exactly. And how should they do it? So a policy or the beginning of the charter is saying the why and expectations. Now let's get down to the nitty-gritty. What inspection forms are they filling out? How are they reporting hazards? What exact training is to be done? How often is that training going to be done?
How do they communicate their findings? How do they follow up on their findings? How did they get approval for their improvement projects? Have some procedures in there. They don't have to be super detailed, but you want to have some procedures in there that give them something to make sure that they have a path to follow and that they're not confused. And it's very clear what you expect out of
[00:11:00] them. Now, once it is written, Because you can write a beautiful charter, you have to make sure it gets approved. So that is step number one. And what I teach you in safety management academy is to make sure that you're always creating a communication cadence that creates management support.
That's that executive advisory committee I mentioned. So make sure that once its charter is written and safety committee approves it first, so make sure that they agree with it, or at least the current members agree with it. And then it goes up the chain and you have to make sure that your executive team agrees with it as well.
Otherwise it's an ineffective charter. You've got to have approval from your management team before you move forward. And that's another thing I didn't mention in expectations and procedures is how you change members. How often are you going to change members? You want to have that in there. And I'll get into this in a further episode, but I don't believe in ever switching out your committee 100% all the time, you should set up a process where only a portion of the committee gets changed out. So that way you're
[00:12:00] constantly training new committee members, but you're getting new opinions all the time, but you're not starting from scratch over and over again either. Alrighty, now that you have your charter approved, your committee has approved it. Everybody has signed off on it. We all love a good sign off sheet.
Right? How are you going to use this charter? Step number one is it's a training tool because every new member coming into your committee needs to be trained. So there is your number one tool is they need to make sure that they know how they're expected to follow in the committee. Number two is you're going to want to share it with all levels of management.
Now your executive management should have already approved it, but you want to make sure that they understand it and you don't just want to email this out and go, oh, here's the safety committee charter because nobody is going to read it. So you want to make sure that they fully understand it, that they understand the authority, that they understand the duties that they understand the expectations.
So have a manager training, have everybody in a room and face-to-face, you really go over this with them and then make sure that you're sharing it with these team members
[00:13:00] regularly, those team members on your safety committee regularly, because they're going to forget what they're mission is. Especially when they're not seeing traction on a lot of the stuff that they're wanting to get done because that's inevitably going to happen.
So that's why I always had my chairperson read the mission. Envision, bring everybody back to center before the start of the meeting, let them know exactly why they are there more they're so important. Now another thing that they would do, and this is my chairperson did this. I didn't come up with this. It's really brilliant.
I should've come up with it, but what she would do, she always read the mission no matter what, but purpose duties and expectations she alternated. So she always read one of the other ones because you're not going to read the whole charter out loud at every meeting that just takes too long, but she would read a part of it at every meeting, just to bring a reminder to the safety committee, what was expected
out of them. Now, hopefully you're seeing how when you have a properly executed charter, that it gives your committee
[00:14:00] structure because the problem with most safety committees is this structure. They're not really sure what they're supposed to be doing, and they are never really given full authority. So without that structure, they're going to struggle and they're going to falter.
So it kind of saying, this just reminds me about kids. So I know a lot of you out there are parents. And the thing about kids as you're raising them, you hear this over and over again that they need structure. You know, kids need discipline. They need schedules. They need structure because when they have that structure, they end up thriving and it's children that don't have structure that end up in trouble one way or the other, whether it's schoolwork or it's something worse than that, right.
It's the same way with our employees. They need the structure. Now they don't need to be like slapped over the hand with it, that type of thing. But when they know that they are fully supported and they have these rules that are going to be followed, that the management team is going to give them authority and they're going to listen to
[00:15:00] them and they are expected to follow these things. Then they're going to thrive. So you don't have to have a committee charter, but hopefully you're seeing that it actually is a little necessary in order to make your committee successful. All right. If you want to hear more about this or when my employee committee training becomes available, it's something that has been on my to-do list for quite a while.
So I'm hoping to get it done within the next year, make sure that you get on my mailing list, because if you're on my mailing list, I will definitely be emailing you and letting you know when it is ready. And the best way to get on my mailing list is to go to thesafetygeek.com and click on that big orange button on the top of the page that says free course take my free course.
It's just five days. It's little videos. They send it to you. You can cheat and take them all at once if you want to, but you'll get on my mailing list. I send you some really cool newsletters. I keep you informed as to what's going on in the safety geek, and we get to communicate in this kind of cool. And when I do my employee committee training, I will let you know,
[00:16:00] you will also find out when new episodes drop. So make sure that you check it out. And in the meantime, I will see you in the next episode. Bye for now.
If you're just getting started in safety, or you've been at this for awhile and are hitting a roadblock, then I want to invite you to check out safety management academy. This is my in-depth online course that not only teaches you the processes and strategies of an effective safety management program, but how to intwine management support and employee participation throughout your processes.
Are you ready to finally understand exactly what you should be doing and ditch that safety police hat forever. Then you have got to join me and your fellow safety scholars over at safety management academy. Just go to thesafetygeek.com forward slash SMA to learn more and to get started. That's thesafetygeek.com forward slash S M A.
[00:17:00] And I will see you in our next students only live session. Bye for now.
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Highlights From This Episode:
- What is Safety Committee Charter?
- How To Create A Good Structure Charter?
- Importance of Charter For Your Workplace Safety Committee
- Key Parts of A Successful Committee Charter
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
What are your thoughts about the safety committee charter? Is it really important or just another addidtion to your to-do list? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)! I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience. Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world. I would love to help you too.