Safety Committees are all the rage and a quick answer to employee involvement in your safety program. In fact, some industries or states actually mandate having an employee safety committee. But do they work?
Tell me, does yours sound like this?
- Scheduled monthly with fingers crossed that people show up.
- Inevitably half the group can’t be pulled away from work to make it – sorry.
- At least one of the members of management invited just doesn’t show without any word as to why. “Meeting? What meeting?”
- The whole meeting is the safety manager talking. Welcome to the Safety Manager Show!
- The only feedback is nodding heads, all agreement, and nothing new to talk about.
SAFETY COMMITTEES ARE NOT NECESSARY IF THEY ARE NOT EFFECTIVE
I am the type of person that believes in safety committees and putting the work in to get them working right. However, if you don’t have the support or perseverance to get it right; then there is no use having a safety committee.
Why have another meeting on your calendar if it’s not working and just wasting your time. Maybe you need to work on building your management support and employee buy-in and try again in six months.
If your Safety Committee is not effective, then don’t have a committee. Work on developing culture first.
BENEFITS OF SAFETY COMMITTEES
However, if you are willing to put in the effort, the safety committees have a lot of great benefits.
It starts with understanding the “WHY” of having a safety committee in the first place. A few weeks ago we talked about employee involvement. Yes, safety committees are a great way to include employees. But why do we want to include employees?
Collaborating with employees on all aspects of your safety program increases the effectiveness of the program. Employees are more likely to buy into the program and follow safe work practices.
Employee input also improves the safety program. You get a detailed view of how your program will work in the real world when the people who will have to practice it daily give you some feedback. Getting everyone to work towards a common safety goal builds teamwork and culture.
A safety committee is an easy way to get employee input and feedback all in one pre-planned place. Instead of interrupting people while they are working, calling special meetings, or trying to catch someone on the fly, you have a set of representatives at the ready on a regular basis.
SAFETY COMMITTEES TAKE WORK
Don’t think that you can just gather people for a committee meeting and the ideas and feedback are going to flood in. Also, be prepared if they do flood in – I have left several committee meetings with a to-do list longer than my arm.
Most of the time, Safety Committees take time to cultivate and work to get them running smoothly.
There are some key elements for successful safety committees.
When safety committees are done right, they can be a game-changer for your safety culture. An effective committee takes action on safety issues, they make meaningful suggestions for improvements, they speak up about concerns and offer solutions, and they are an extension of the safety department.
THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX WITH SAFETY COMMITTEES
Maybe you have tried. You have put in the work, you have the support, but the committee is just not as effective as you think it should be.
Sometimes the traditional monthly meeting or department meeting is just not doable in your operation. Getting a committee organized can be difficult when your employees are usually working off-site, such as a mobile workforce that arrives and leaves at various times; or when your employee is piece rate and they don’t want to stop working to attend a meeting.
In these cases, think outside the box on how to get them involved. I have seen a few solutions that work well in these situations.
- Conference call meetings where remote employees call in to attend. You could have an on-site meeting with a speakerphone for those calling in. This gives everyone a chance to participate.
- Small groups or department groups. Instead of one big safety committee meeting, have several small committee meetings.
- Pre-Shift meetings. Designate a portion of the daily pre-shift production meeting to focus on safety committee topics once a week; like reviewing JHAs, conducting inspections, or providing feedback on projects.
- Kaizens – solve one specific problem in a short time frame. Instead of an ongoing safety committee. For every issue, gather a small group of employees and work with, and have them try to solve it over a handful of meetings. When the problem is resolved, the group is disbanded. For the next issue, you gather a different group of employees.
- Ditch the meeting but still have members. You can have designated safety committee members who you meet with one-on-one, instead of in a large meeting. They can bring you issues from the work floor, possible solutions, provide feedback on anything your working on, and conduct safety committee assignments. This method is more time consuming for the safety manager but works well with a remote workforce like drivers.
Over the next week, take a serious look at how effective your safety committee is, if you have one. Download the SAFETY COMMITTEE CHECKLIST and compare it to what you are doing.
If something is not working, try an out of the box method, like a small group or Kaizen.
No matter what, don’t give up. Just keep trying to find what works for your people and your operation. Even if it means changing it up every few months until you find the right fit. The benefits of employee involvement are worth the time and effort you put into it.
Now It’s Your Turn
I am fascinated by safety committees. They are something I personally have always struggled with and I love hearing success stories. The one thing I have learned is there is no one way to do a safety committee.
I have gathered so many different ideas over the years and I would love to hear yours. Leave a comment below telling us how you run your safety committee. And, don’t forget to tell a friend about Ask Safety Geek; we always need new people to geek out about safety with.
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.