Building a strong safety culture is a great barometer of organizational health. It also demonstrates the company’s commitment to employee and customer safety. Employee engagement is critical for a thriving safety culture.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed trying to create a culture of safety yourself, the good news is that you don’t have to do it alone.
Leveraging the skills and talents of safety committees is a great way to foster a safety culture, support an organization’s safety management function, and ensure two-way safety communication between managers and employees. It may make your job easier. Moreover, research shows that effective teams almost always outperform people working individually toward a common goal.
However, safety committees should not be assembled randomly without structure and leadership. Here are his five tips for forming an effective safety committee at your company.
1: Recruit influencers to ensure diverse perspectives
A safety committee is any group that can have a dynamic impact on an organization. All participants must be team players with safety as a core value. So don’t pull straws between employees or “volunteer” service to other employees.
- Ideally, you want committee members who are influencers for the company. These employees are able to build relationships with their colleagues. Their active and visible membership makes it easier to implement safety changes supported by their peers.
- A commitment to safety must become a shared responsibility between management and employees. So ensure representation from management, hourly employees, front office, manufacturing floor, and all shifts (to the extent practicable).
- Limit committee size to 4 to 12 members. This allows for plenty of participation while ensuring groups are not too large to manage.
- Think of safety committees as positive team-building opportunities that allow company employees to work side by side with people they don’t interact with on a regular basis.
2: Get commitment and support from company management
If an employee raises a safety concern, who is responsible for responding to it? Who will follow up and ensure that appropriate action is taken? Or be a member of the leadership team. Usually one of her or two of her members of the leadership team initiates the creation of the safety committee, demonstrating management’s commitment to the team and its objectives. It also creates some structure, establishes norms, and organizes activities until the committee can operate on its own.
Depending on the organization, the founding members of the committee may be operations directors, plant managers, human resources managers, facilities and maintenance managers, engineering managers, or other persons directly impacting the company’s production and employee safety.
However, the role of the leadership team on the committee is not to assert authority over the committee, but to allow committee members to manage their own day-to-day safety committee activities. Additionally, ensure that the committee is supported with the resources, time, and money to implement safety improvements. Once the committee is operational, consideration should be given to electing a new safety committee chair to facilitate meetings and committee activities.
You can’t have a safety committee if the employees don’t show up because the manager won’t support it, or if it conflicts with their job responsibilities. It is important that employees understand and support their need to step back from their daily routines and focus on safety. Clear and detailed communication allows management to prepare and plan staffing needs accordingly and gain support for the safety committee in the long run.
3: Keep your committee active and visible
To build a safety culture, safety committees need to be visible and vocal. Create some structure around the activities of the safety committee and allow members to host events at their workplaces. Encourage member participation to be active rather than passive and to raise safety concerns with members, but emphasize that the meeting is not an opportunity to hold a grievance session.
For this reason, leading a safety committee requires good time management and communication skills.
- Have an agenda and keep the momentum going in the right direction.
- Record meeting minutes to document safety committee meetings and progress.
- Rotate committee members regularly to ensure that multiple employees are on board and have fresh ideas (6-12 month tenure is the norm). Remember to post the names and photos of your safety committee members so associates know who to talk to about safety concerns and suggestions.
4: Empower your committee members
The Safety Committee Chairperson oversees the functioning of the Safety Committee, but do not place all responsibility on the Chairperson. If you are the chair, give up some control and try not to take on too many tasks. Effective leaders communicate a clear vision and goals, provide the tools and information the committee needs, delegate tasks, trust the team to do its job, and provide support when needed.
Encourage your team to be safety ambassadors, not safety cops. Be open to different perspectives and validate everyone’s participation. Allow others to take ownership of the results.
By letting go of control as chairman, you gain influence.
5: Cultivate Teamwork
As mentioned earlier, team building is essential to the committee’s success. There are many ways to build trust and cooperation among committee members while allocating committee members to activities that provide lessons learned and opportunities for improvement.
- Common approaches include:
- Conducting workplace safety inspections
- Employee Survey on Workplace Hazards
- Supporting the development of safety consultations
- Provide information to develop company policies and workplace safety procedures
- Investigation when an incident occurs
- Participate in root cause analysis
Promote committee activities and encourage teams to celebrate milestones and team successes.
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