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Tips and Tactics for a Stronger Safety Committee

Of course you have a safety committee. But how effective is it? Does it satisfy a state requirement with minimal creativity or innovation? Is it your ticket to a discount on your workers’ comp coverage? Or does it actually enhance your safety performance, giving employees at all levels an opportunity to lead and engage in the safety process?
What elements go into making a safety committee successful? This Compliance Report delivers reminders, tips, and best practices. Be sure to share the content with your committee and use it as a departure point for improvements at your site or company.

Giving everyone a voice
According to employment lawyer and safety professional Adele Abrams, a safety and health committee is “an organizational structure where members represent a group, giving everyone a voice.” Committees aid and advise management and employees about safety and health pertaining to a plant or company operation.”

An effective safety committee encourages safety awareness, gets a large number of employees actively involved in the safety program, and motivates employees to follow sound safety practices. An effective employee safety structure provides a feedback mechanism to identify and correct new safety hazards at the earliest stage. Once the safety committee structure is in place and working well, it is a natural vehicle for employee involvement, preparation, and introduction of new safety efforts.
There are no federal requirements for safety committees in private sector workplaces. However, many states require them. In other states, employers may get a discount on their workers’ compensation premiums if they have a safety committee in place.

Tasks can include monitoring, training, conducting investigations, and developing innovative solutions to safety issues. Abrams emphasizes that a committee meeting is not a safety meeting where all employees or managers are present; rather, representatives are limited in number. At some sites, committee membership is strictly voluntary, while at other workplaces, management may recommend or volunteer employees for participation.

Committee membership and makeup vary greatly by size, structure, purpose, hazards, and the make-up of employees and managers. One study found that safety committees with a heavier concentration of hourly workers had lower injury and illness rates. Other research found that sites with a higher percentage of employees were found to have better rates.

What about construction sites? Do they need committees?
The short answer is yes, for many of the same reasons that other types of workplaces need committees: They provide a tool for identifying and communicating hazards, they promote employee engagement, and they contribute to a positive safety environment and culture.
According to the Thomas-Fenner-Woods Agency, a provider of workers’ compensation and other types of insurance, the most obvious reason construction companies should embrace safety committees is because their industry has the highest number of injuries and fatalities. Regardless of the industry, an active safety committee shows employees that the company cares about their well-being, which in itself is a motivator that improves productivity. (Read entire article)