Eight essential components of winning safety committees

Published on Mon, 03/24/2014 - 18:05
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Steadily rising costs and a stubborn economy demand that you take aggressive measures to protect your profits. A study funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) puts the price tag of occupational injuries and illnesses in the U.S. at $250 billion a year. OSHA estimates U.S. employers spend nearly $1 billion every week in workers' compensation costs alone.

The only real remedy for this drain on your bottom line is to prevent workplace injuries from happening in the first place. You can’t prevent them all, but zero accidents should be your goal. A dedicated safety committee is a powerful first step toward creating a culture of safety in your organization.

Advantages of a dedicated safety committee

An effective safety committee can help ensure compliance with your company safety program, conduct regular inspections, facilitate formal investigations of workplace accidents, and lead regular safety training. Safety committees also raise awareness and foster a sense of ownership in a safe work environment among your employees.

But safety committees must be set up for success.

Many companies casually form a safety committee either because their insurance company suggests it or OSHA requires it. And too many safety committees end up languishing in a perpetual state of ineffectiveness due to a lack of focus, funding, commitment, motivation, or other crucial elements.

If you want a winning safety committee that drives measurable improvements in workplace safety, accident and injury rates, and your bottom line, make sure it includes these eight essential components:

  1. A well-defined purpose. Your safety committee needs a clearly defined purpose and clearly defined functions and duties for each member. Lack of a clear purpose is the number one reason safety committees fail.
  2. Proper training. All committee members should have a basic understanding of technical safety and health issues and be trained in proper data gathering, accident investigation, and job safety analysis methods.
  3. Adequate funding. A safety committee is a smart business investment, and management must be willing to provide funds, tools, and resources for safety and health fairs, wellness programs, and other safety activities and incentives.
  4. Adequate size. The size of your company and your risk factors should determine the size of your safety committee. Keep it large enough to cover all the bases, but small enough so each member can participate actively. Consider forming subcommittees for specific projects.
  5. Formal meeting agendas. Keep everyone on task and on the same page by preparing and handing out an agenda before meetings.
  6. Open communication. Encourage all employees to aggressively identify and report workplace hazards, and keep all employees and management up to date on safety meeting minutes and committee actions.
  7. Commitment to follow up. A safety committee’s ultimate effectiveness depends on its ability to follow through on recommendations and find solutions to problems.
  8. Ability to lead change. Until your written safety program is put into action, it’s all theory. Safety committee members should be encouraged and empowered to make changes for the health and safety of all employees. After all, this is the main reason the safety committee exists.

A strong safety committee is a powerful first line of defense against workplace accidents and injuries. And fewer injuries mean fewer workers’ compensation insurance claims and lower insurance premiums. Let the risk management experts at Heffernan help you make sure your safety committee is a winner.