The Benefits of an Effective Health and Safety Committee
GEMMA COLLINS DOYLE
Health and Safety Consultant
Some people may think that there is no need for a safety committee and that may be true, only if the one that you have in place is not effective!
Speaking from experience, I have always found that an effective safety committee can be a huge benefit to the company and to employees. Working with all different types of companies — large or small — I have seen first-hand the benefits an organisation can enjoy as a result of supporting and fostering an active safety committee.
Your safety management programme can benefit hugely when you utilise front line workers. These employees have the most experience with how a task is performed every day and can help identify hazards that others may overlook. Safety committees allow organisation to tap into this knowledge.
Safety committees can serve a variety of functions, depending on the company’s safety culture, the amount of training they receive as committee members and the amount of time that management allows committee members to dedicate. Some of the more common functions for safety committees include:
- Being a liaison group between employees and management
- Increasing awareness of safety
- Identifying workplace risks and creating a plan (or making recommendations) to reduce risks
- Integrating safety and health priorities into corporate culture
- Encouraging safety training for employees and management
- Conducting audits and safety walkabouts
Who benefits from an effective safety committee?
With an engaged safety committee, an employer increases the likelihood of:
- Decreasing employee accidents and loss costs, which will significantly impact the cost of company insurance.
- Decreased medical costs
With a strong safety committee in place, members will also become incredibly powerful advocates for safe working practices, which will filtrate down to their co-workers. This form of safety awareness can be far more powerful than always hearing the safety message from management.
I have had the pleasure to watch some employees bloom while on a safety committee. For some, they find a voice within the committee and their confidence grows. For others, it has lead to a career in the area of Health and Safety. Being part of the committee can have a really positive effect on employees, which is so great to see.
Employee committee participation builds an increased awareness of the company’s viewpoint and commitment to the safety of its employees. Committee members will develop more engagement with the company by having a meaningful voice.
In addition to the above, the members will also increase their own knowledge and understanding of the operational impact that workplace accidents can have. They will learn the importance of carrying out risk assessments and identifying hazards and most importantly, they will help with developing solutions.
It really is fantastic to see how well employees respond to involvement with a committee. In addition to the ability for them to provide valuable insight to site hazards and be involved in solutions and seeing those solutions work. In short, they will also become more engaged as an employee.
These employees will go on to become invaluable advocates and vital in enhancing and expanding the company safety culture. It is recommended that employees rotate through the committee in an effort to engage and train a broader selection of employees.
5. Have some fun!
Safety doesn’t have to be boring! Let’s be honest, meetings, in general, can get boring. Spice it up a bit and try a few of the suggestions below. Its guaranteed to make sure people don’t miss the monthly meeting and might get other employees interested!
- If its Summertime, consider having your meeting outdoors!
- Organise an annual field trip to another company to look at how they manage safety.
- Consider getting a Motivational Safety Speaker in once a year.
- Organise a team-building exercise.
- Give every member the chance to bring a guest to a meeting.
- Enter the committee into a national safety quiz.
- Organise toolbox talks on relevant safety issues.
Professional decorum still applies, of course!
If your Safety Committee is indeed effective, then it is only natural that the employees will enjoy and benefit from a much safer and healthier workplace. It will show that the company cares about the wellbeing and safety of all its employees, contractors and visitors.
Having a safety committee in place will give all employees a voice to be heard and will help them feel more connected to the company and involved in decisions that may affect them. It will also give them a way of communicating their issues to a fellow employee if they do not feel comfortable raising certain issues with management. Be careful though, that issues are truly safety related and not masked as such, to benefit other agendas!
If your company has a safety officer/manager/co-ordinator, then the safety committee will be extremely important to them, especially if they are a one man/woman show and do not have a team of EHS professionals to bounce ideas off or get support from.
Having a group of interested and engaged employees who have the same goals will inspire and encourage your in-house safety professional and ensure that they can discuss and get feedback on any safety issues within the company.
Safety committees may struggle with maintaining member enthusiasm over time. Consider the following suggestions to prevent committee member burnout:
- Rotate the committee’s focus among a variety of topics, such as ergonomics, followed by manual handling hazard reduction, and so on.
- Bring in new committee members when the committee becomes stale. Also, occasionally invite non-committee employees to participate in a meeting and discuss any day-to-day hazards they encounter.
- Invite safety committees from similar companies to visit and help identify hazards. Its always good to learn from others!
So, hopefully the above has given you food for thought and if you don’t have a committee already in place, then maybe it is time to get one together or if you have one, maybe it is time to renew it.
Having an effective safety committee is a win win for everyone!
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