Have you been tasked with building a safety culture at your organization? Creating a strong safety culture is an excellent barometer for organizational health. It also demonstrates your business’ commitment to the safety of its employees and customers. Employee engagement is critical if your safety culture is going to thrive.
If you’re overwhelmed trying to create a culture of safety by yourself, the good news is you don’t have to do it alone.
Leveraging the skills and talents of a safety committee is a great way to foster a safety culture, support the safety management function of your organization, and ensure two-way safety communication between management and employees. It may even make your job easier. Plus, as research shows, effective teams will almost always outperform people working individually toward a common goal.
However, a safety committee shouldn’t be assembled randomly and without structure or leadership. Here are 5 tips to form an effective safety committee at your company.
Tip #1: Recruit Influencers and Ensure Diverse Perspectives
The Safety Committee is a voluntary group that can have a dynamic impact on the organization. All participants must be team players who hold safety as a core value. So, don’t draw straws among employees or “volun-tell” others for service.
- Ideally, you want committee members who are influencers in the company. These employees can build relationships with coworkers. Their active and visible membership will make it easier to implement safety changes their coworkers will support.
- A commitment to safety must become a shared responsibility between management and employees. So, ensure representation from management, hourly employees, the front office, the shop floor, and all shifts (to the extent it’s feasible).
- Limit the committee’s size to between four and 12 members. This allows for ample participation while ensuring the group is not too large to manage.
- Consider the safety committee a positive team building opportunity, where company associates can work side by side with people with whom they may not regularly interact.
Tip #2: Get commitment and support from company leadership
When an employee raises a safety concern, who is in charge of responding to it? Who follows up and ensures that appropriate action was taken? Ideally, this should be a member of the management or leadership team. Typically, one or two members of the leadership team will kick off the creation of a safety committee, demonstrating management’s commitment to the team and its purpose. They will also create some structure, establish norms, and organize activities until the committee can operate on its own.
Depending on your organization, founding members of the committee could be the Director of Operations, Plant Manager, Human Resources Manager, Facilities and Maintenance Manager, Engineering Manager, or others that directly influence production and employee safety at the company.
However, the leadership team’s role on the committee isn’t to assert authority over the committee, but to empower the committee members to manage the day-to-day safety committee activities on their own. Plus, they help ensure that the committee is supported with resources, time, and funding to carry out safety improvements. Once your committee is up and running, you should consider electing a new Safety Committee Chairperson to facilitate the meetings and committee activities moving forward.
You can’t have a safety committee if employees don’t show up because their manager doesn’t support it, or if it creates conflicts with their work responsibilities. That’s why it’s important that the leaders of the safety committee work with management to understand and support their employees’ need to take time away from their day-to-day jobs to focus on safety. Clear and detailed communication enables management to prepare and plan staffing needs accordingly (and earns their support for the safety committee in the long run).
Tip #3: Make the Committee Active and Visible
To create a safety culture, your safety committee needs to be visible and vocal. Create some structure around the Safety Committee activities and allow members to host events in their work areas. Emphasize that member participation is active, not passive, and that although you encourage members to bring forth safety concerns, meetings are not an opportunity to hold a gripe session.
For these reasons, leading a safety committee requires skillful time management and communication skills.
- Have an agenda and stay on point to keep the momentum going in the right direction.
- Log the meeting minutes to document your safety committee meetings and progress.
- Rotate committee members periodically to allow several employees to participate and get fresh ideas (six-to-12-month terms are standard). Remember to post the names and photos of safety committee members so that associates know whom to go to with safety concerns and suggestions.
Tip #4: Empower the Committee Members
Although the Safety Committee Chairperson will oversee the safety committee’s function, ensure that all responsibilities don’t fall on the Chair. If you are the Chair, let go of some control and avoid taking on too many tasks. An effective leader will communicate a clear vision and goals, provide the tools and information the committee needs, delegate tasks, trust the team to do their job, and provide support where needed.
Encourage the team to be safety ambassadors, not safety cops. Be open to different points of view and validate everyone’s participation. Allow others to take ownership of the outcomes.
You will gain influence by letting go of control as a Chairperson.
Tip #5: Foster Teamwork
As mentioned earlier, team building is critical to a successful committee. There are numerous ways to assign committee members to activities that will bring forth lessons learned and improvement opportunities, while, at the same time, building trust and cooperation among committee members.
- Common approaches include:
- Conducting workplace safety inspections
- Surveying employees about workplace hazards
- Helping develop safety talks
- Providing input to develop company policies or work area safety procedures
- Investigating incidents as they occur
- Participating in root cause analyses
Encourage the team to promote committee activities and celebrate milestones and team successes.
Before you know it, with these tips you’ll be well on your way to forming your first safety committee.