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Avoid These Safety Committee Pitfalls

Originally posted July 25, 2013 by Chris Kilbourne on https://safetydailyadvisor.blr.com

SFM Mutual Insurance Company considers safety committees “the heart of an organization’s safety efforts.” But if committees are not handled properly, their effectiveness can be diminished.

Failure to articulate a purpose and top-heavy management representation are among mistakes to avoid when establishing a safety committee. In a document developed for workers’ comp clients, the insurer cites other common pitfalls.

  • Unclear roles. Develop a written agreement or mission statement that clearly defines the committee’s functions and member duties. Among other things, it should ensure that the committee meets regulatory requirements and communicates with employees about its activities.
  • No budget. A committee should be considered an investment, and management needs to provide adequate tools and resources. Funds may be needed for member training, safety and health fairs, and other activities.
  • Size. The size of the organization and the hazards workers face should influence the type and size of a committee. SFM Mutual recommends keeping committees relatively small so that members can participate actively. Subcommittees can be established for special projects. Many large employers have multiple committees that serve individual divisions, buildings, or shifts.
  • Failure to orient new members. Those new to the committee may be unaware of group dynamics and past issues. Bring new members up to speed by providing minutes and other documents. If possible, let departing members orient the newcomers.
  • Lack of follow-up. Committees can rise and fall on their reputation for doing what they say they will do. Committee leaders should request formal status reports and should review assignments at the end of the meeting to keep everyone on the same page. Many committee agendas list not only the topic to be discussed but also the person responsible for seeing the issue through.
  • Lackluster participation. The experts say the best members are active, involved participants who eagerly share their passion for safety with their co-workers. Leaders should find ways to get all members involved and fully representing their department or work group.
  • Same old, same old. Committees must innovate to maintain interest and involvement. Encourage leaders to learn about successful committees at other businesses and borrow good ideas. Plan a committee-led safety day or safety mentor program. Canvass employees to make sure their good ideas are getting through. Ask a safety committee member to address your board of directors annually so that those at the top are aware of the committee’s activities.