Ways to Build More Effective and Enjoyable Workplace Safety Committees:
Put progression before perfection at the start.
When creating a safety committee, begin the process with immediate and long-term goals, but be careful about aiming too high initially.
What are you going to accomplish? Is there a measurement that you’re going to have? What can you do to push safety forward just a little bit? Not monumental, not huge, but one thing that you can hang your hat on Dec. 31 and say, ‘This is what our committee accomplished in 2018.”
Workplaces consist of employees with varied positions and backgrounds. Ensure your safety committee follows suit by including a mix of your organization’s labor force and management. This is not an authority position. This is a representation.
Committees should include current or previous safety champions as well. Make sure you have people who are excited about it, because that’s really important to get it going.
Develop a basic curriculum.
Be prepared to provide training and materials to boost committee members’ knowledge and recognition of workplace safety and health hazards, as well as ways to avoid and prevent them. Note that numerous safety education resources are available. NSC and other worker safety organizations offer extensive training in a variety of areas, while the OSHA Outreach Training Program includes 10-hour and 30-hour classes.
Plan meetings ahead of time.
Develop meeting agendas a few days in advance and distribute them so committee members can prepare. Part of the agenda should include setting a time limit for the entire meeting as well as for each agenda item. Monitor how meetings adhere to these limits. Also, have one person serve as the committee’s “conscience.” This person’s duties would include keeping the group focused and ensuring the committee is acting properly, following pre-determined ground rules and treating all members with respect.
Maintain a reasonable rotation among committee members.
Ideally, the committee will be made up of volunteers rather than appointed or selected members. That dynamic increases the probability of consistent member investment and energy. Consider the size of your organization and the committee when deciding the best rotation schematic. Stressing the importance of a quantity of perspectives and the tendency of ‘groupthink’ to build on an individual’s idea. People get on a committee and then no one else can get on it. So make sure it rotates a lot.
For most larger companies, Potter suggests a rotation of three years on, two years off.
Don’t be boring.
Make Safety Fun! It can be boring, like meetings can in general. So what can you do to vary it? Make it an agenda item. Talk about what we can do to make these meetings more fun and make them better. Suggestions include opening meetings with personal reflections or exercises before the traditional reading of minutes; using occasional guest speakers; and scheduling some meetings at a nearby restaurant, museum or park. Professional decorum still applies, of course.
Occasionally look outward.
Try to get in touch with other industries and see what they’re doing outside of your field. For example, if you’re in construction, oil or gas [industries], reach a hospital and see what their safety committee is doing. Just getting your brain thinking differently. They will have a different mindset and approach than you will. Plus, it’s more interesting for the committee members and its easy to do!
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