Workplace safety is an important priority for all responsible employers. For many companies, having a safety committee is a great way to identify potential safety concerns, and address them effectively. In most situations, a safety committee will be staffed and run by employees from throughout the facility rather than just be made up of those from the management team.
Support from Management Team
When starting a workplace safety committee it is absolutely essential to have strong support from the senior management teams. If the safety committee doesn't have this support, they will be unable to implement any of the changes or improvements that they come up with. Many safety improvement efforts will require money and other resources to put into practice, which will require the support of company leadership.
Members from Throughout the Facility
Safety committees need to have representation from throughout the facility. Depending on the size of the facility, it can be a good idea to have one member from each department. This is important for several reasons including the following:
- Multiple Points of View - Bringing people together from multiple departments will ensure there are multiple points of view considered when deciding what steps to take to improve safety.
- Finding Safety Concerns Throughout Facility - By having people from each department involved it is more likely that all safety concerns in the facility will be given appropriate attention.
- Interconnected Departments - In most facilities today, all the different departments are interconnected in some ways. Making a change to improve safety in one area will likely impact the other departments so having representation from all areas is critical.
Rotate Team Members
Another important way to involve people from throughout the facility is to plan to rotate membership on the safety committee. This will ensure there are always fresh ideas and points of view being presented, and will also help to get more support and buy in from all the employees of the facility.
There are many ways that this type of rotation can be done. Some facilities will say that each member has to rotate off of the committee and a new one come on after one year of service. Others will allow the rotations to be voluntary. The specifics of how to ensure the safety committee always has a good balance of new members, and those with more experience, will vary from company to company.
When rotating the members in and out of the safety committee, special thought should be given to who will be the leader of the group. Some companies decide to have one person who is the designated leader of the safety committee, and they won't be rotated off. This will give them the experience and confidence to push desired projects forward.
Having one leader, however, puts the committee at risk of just following whatever that individual says is a good idea. This is why many other facilities will have the leader chosen from existing members of the group, and then rotated off the safety committee after a set amount of time.
There are clear pros and cons of each option so choosing effective leaders and ensuring they are in place for the appropriate amount of time for a given facility is essential.
Whenever holding meetings of any type it can be a danger that they will be unproductive. This is especially true when the meetings are regularly scheduled as those for a safety committee would be. To combat this issue, the safety committee should always have an agenda in place before the meetings start. This will help to keep everyone focused and working toward common goals.
When there isn't good planning and organization in place for the safety committee meetings, it is unlikely that they will be productive. This severely limits how much improvement they can make in the facility, and will often result in a loss of support from the management team.
Focus on Improvement - Not Perfection
When working on a safety committee it can be hard to move things forward because everyone will have a different idea on how it should be done. Everyone wants to try to take a safety concern and address it in the perfect way so that it will be eliminated. While this is certainly good if there is a clear solution to eliminate a problem, that is rarely the case.
The safety committee will be more effective if it can focus on making consistent progress toward overall safety improvements rather than needing everything to be perfect. Committees can often complete many smaller safety improvement projects effectively in the time that it would take to fight to try to find a perfect solution to a larger problem.
Understanding Safety Strategies
One helpful way to guide a safety committee toward success is to ensure all the members have a good understanding of different safety strategies. Methodologies like LEAN and Six Sigma, which are usually seen just as waste eliminate strategies, also include safety improvement components. If a company is already using these, or any, strategies like this it can be a great idea to incorporate them into the safety committee as well.
If the safety committee identifies an improvement opportunity, they can work with groups responsible for eliminating waste or improving processes to get the issues fixed. Cross-committee cooperation can often help to get things done much more quickly for the benefit of the entire facility.
Whenever a safety committee is formed in a workplace there will be some people who think it is a waste of time and resources. This is why it is important to ensure all the safety improvements that are made should be celebrated so everyone can see the benefit.
This will not only illustrate the importance of the safety committee to the facility as a whole, but it will also be very encouraging to those who are on the committee itself. In addition, it can help inspire other people to want to join the committee in the future.
In order to properly celebrate success, the committee needs to have measurable information that was gathered to show that their efforts were successful. This requires the committee to gather baseline information about how things are when they start a new project, and then gather information about the results for a set amount of time after the project has been completed.
Whether a facility is working on implementing a safety committee for the first time, or looking to formalize and improve an existing committee, it is important to ensure it is done properly. A well-functioning safety committee can provide exceptional improvements that may literally save lives.