chapter 5

the safety committee.

 

In the context of fast-paced work environments, it can be easy to forget that organizational culture, management of change and anticipation and intervention of risk is established from the tone at the top. There is no getting around the fact that what matters to leaders is going to be reflected, day in and day out, in the behavior, attitudes and expectations of everyone else throughout the organization.

That's where the formation of an established safety committee can come into play. It's a chance to bring leadership together with team members from diverse areas of your organization not only to define goals, but to ensure you continue to make progress toward them. Remember the discussion on strategic intervention and feedback? Safety committees can be an amazing place to establish both top-down and bottom-up communications in one setting, as well as allow the workforce to visually and meaningfully connect with their leadership teams’ efforts, improvements, challenges and limitations in forward progress.

creating a formalized safety committee can help keep safety top of mind throughout the organization.

In its simplest form, a safety committee is a diverse group of cross-functional disciplines, workers (including those from staffing agencies) and leaders who gather around the strategic health/safety goals of the organization for continual improvement. Whatever your experience may be with safety committees in the past, in companies where continual improvement in safety performance is the expected norm, leadership teams are the ones that ensure their success.

the seven ingredients of best-in-class safety committee programs

meeting

diverse representation

Include representatives from all departments and shifts at your organization, as well as leaders and influencers in important areas such as human resources, procurement and legal. If the goal of meeting together in a safety committee is to highlight strategic improvements and effectively manage risks, these critical influencers are needed for buy-in and communications to organizational leadership.

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clear expectations

What common goal is everyone working toward? How will you benchmark progress — and what will success look like? Outline short-term goals, long-term goals and a simple process of collecting risk observations and feedback on adherence to safety processes. Then, conduct a simple “what’s working/not working” session so everyone can contribute. Make it easy, and expected, for everyone to contribute and deliver results/feedback at the next meeting.

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support and other resources

While senior leaders (CEOs, GMs, VPs) may not always be able to attend, their visible support, periodic attendance and contribution is critical for buy-in from the workforce. Managing time well as a resource is critical during these meetings, which demonstrates to the organization the importance of getting things done correctly, and keeps the team focused on the safety committee’s main goal.

Other tools and resources needed by safety committees:

  • an established time/place to meet (even remote in some instances)
  • an agenda: sent ahead of time, with assignments clearly communicated and an understanding of what should be reported out
  • leadership support and established pathways to leverage improvements and communications through operations, HR, legal, procurement, training and other departments
    • budget: one that's reasonable, integrated into organizational review and that anticipates future needs
  • set rules for time and attendance, along with expectations for contribution
  • tools for risk assessment and training for safety improvements, like how to communicate technical problems to different leadership groups
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agenda

Draft agenda items for each meeting agenda well in advance. What's going to be covered, and why is it important? This will help keep everyone on track when setting goals.

calendar

scheduling

Everyone on the safety team should be aligned on the cadence of meetings that's appropriate for your organization. In the event that absences become an issue, first speak to the party in question privately, and gently remind them of the importance of your collective goals. The bottom line is that attendance must be mandatory for all.

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tracking and monitoring

Aim to wind down each meeting with a resolution on, say, two or three separate safety issues. These should be concrete goals — with limited scope — that can be effectively resolved before your next meeting. Just be sure to follow up!

  • Items critical to safety/health, such as Serious Injury/Fatality exposures should be addressed immediately.
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openness and communication

Some sort of organization-wide communication should follow on the heels of every safety committee meeting. What are you working on? What are the short- and long-term goals? Sharing the committee's work not only increases visibility, but helps secure buy-in from team members across the company. Share the successes achieved through the collaboration between the safety committee and operations groups.

Finally, keep in mind that it's still possible to have fun — in fact, that three-letter word can be what differentiates organizations that succeed with safety from those that don't. Strive to maintain a positive tone throughout the course of your safety committee meetings, keeping in mind, too, that even short-term wins deserve to be commemorated and shared.

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