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July 11, 2012

Developing A Safe Work Environment Through Safety Committees

Summary:

A great way to foster a safe work environment and involve employees and management in safety initiatives is to maintain an effective Safety Committee. Even if your organization already has a safety committee in place, there are approaches that can be implemented to improve their effectiveness.

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A great way to foster a safe work environment and involve employees and management in safety initiatives is to maintain an effective Safety Committee. In fact, safety committees can be so valuable in some states they are actually required. Even if your organization already has a safety committee in place, there are approaches that can be implemented to improve their effectiveness.

Who Should Be On A Safety Committee?
Both management and employees should be involved in an organization's safety committee. Including members from all areas of the operation dramatically increases the effectiveness of any safety committee.

What Does It Mean To Be A Member Of Your Organization's Safety Committee?
Safety committee members play a critical role in keeping their coworkers safe and their organization productive. When a safety committee identifies and addresses workplace hazards, it prevents injuries.

Safety committee members should assist in:

  • Identifying unsafe conditions and correcting the problems.
  • Spotting unsafe acts, counseling workers, and addressing these issues with appropriate management.
  • Ensuring that proper work behaviors are “enabled” and supported.
  • Evaluating root causes of any accidents or near misses.
  • The development of needed safeguards and following up on their implementation.

Safety committee members lead by their own example and should continuously seek suggestions, and relay any feedback about workplace improvement from coworkers. In this way, committee members can improve safety in the workplace based on the knowledge of front-line workers. Through the safety committee, employees can help both in preventing losses and maintaining compliance with safety and health regulations.

What Must A Safety Committee Do?
The safety committee should conduct periodic and frequent walkthroughs of work areas. Workstation ergonomics, fire extinguishers, personal protective equipment, safeguards, work practices, and regular equipment and processes should be evaluated. Members should be trained to properly perform walkthroughs, incident investigation and root cause evaluations.

Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) should be checked to make certain that they're up-to-date and available for any employee to view.

Safety alarms (such as fire alarms) and other needed emergency action plan elements should be regularly inspected. Any items from previous Safety Committee meetings should be reviewed, noted, and respective corrective actions implemented. Members should suggest areas where additional training or corrective actions are needed. Unsafe actions should be noted and corrected through retraining and other needed control approaches.

Safety committees need to meet regularly to be effective and are typically conducted on a monthly basis. Members should be prepared to discuss the results of safety walkthroughs, input from employees, as well as any incidents and near misses. Suggestions and ideas should be offered to correct any root causes identified. Minutes from the meeting need to be prepared and posted for all workers and management to read. Distribution of the minutes can open discussions regarding the overall performance of the organization among everyone involved.

Another great way to create a dialogue in safety committee meetings and among employees in general is to include a toolbox talk or a training short. These documents are available on many different safety topics pertinent to your organization's workplace. Discussions on these safety topics may lead to even more improvements in your organization.

Finally, safety committees are a great way to recognize the excellent performance of individual staff members or departments and to accentuate and highlight proper behaviors. This helps all employees and management within an organization realize that safety is important to their organization's goals, and benefits everyone!

Helpful Resource
Being A Safety Committee Member

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