Establishing a Safety Committee
Creating a safe environment is an ongoing process and it’s important to invest in a culture of learning and improvement at your organization. That way, when and if things go wrong, you can learn and grow as a team.
Safety committees are the foundation to successful programs throughout your organization. They allow you to critically look at the organization as a whole and make changes where needed, while bringing in diverse voices and expertise. Though dedicated staff members may sometimes take initiative to improve safety procedures on their own, creating a safety committee is a great way to institutionalize this process, keeping an organization on the path towards a safer environment.
Below are some examples of tasks a safety committee may complete:
- Program audits and premises/equipment inspections from the vantage point of both worker and participant safety
- Incident/Injury reviews for employees and volunteers
- Identifying safety hazards and suggesting corrective measures
- Developing safe work practices for employees and the volunteers that assist in the organization
- Identifying the need for and facilitating safety training
- Identifying and promoting activities that encourage employees to support the organization’s safety efforts
With staffing being a challenge, there are ways to create a safety committee with the employees you already have. It’s a good idea to start with staff who have expressed an interest in safety, or those who want to advance their careers. Position the committee as an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and be involved in the success of the organization.
Here are a few tips for creating an effective safety committee:
Have Clear Objectives and Responsibilities
“Improving safety” is too broad a mission. Setting an objective—for example, reducing the number of incident reports by 20%—and clearly defining safety committee duties will help keep members focused on the task at hand.
Keep Committee a Manageable Size
Safety committees benefit from having a diverse set of members, familiar with many different facets of an organization. Yet having too many voices can lead to confusion or inaction. Generally, five to ten members is a good size to have productive meetings.
Show Support from Senior Management
Senior management must support the committee so that all employees understand and embrace the corporate commitment to safety. Also, it must ensure that all levels of management are supportive and engaged, and should encourage all members’ involvement in the discussions of safety issues and concerns. If senior management opts not to serve regularly on the committee, it should attend the first meeting, provide guidance, review committee meeting minutes and reports, and be available and responsive to questions and concerns the committee raises. Remember, top-down awareness and support of all workplace safety initiatives is essential.
Below are some additional members to consider for your safety committee:
- Management—preferably CEO, COO or RM, depending on association size
- Each basic programming area—Childcare, School-AgedCare, Fitness, Aquatics, Camp, Youth Sports, etc.
- Each major property-related department—Maintenance, Housekeeping, Facility, Grounds, etc.
- Transportation—if the department is present
- One or more board volunteers, if possible, who are interested in safety or risk management
Keep Meetings Short and Focused
Whether you decide to rotate leadership or have a committee chair, make sure someone is tasked with facilitating each meeting. Publish meeting agendas ahead of time, and commit to finishing on time.
Below are some ideas of initial elements to discuss in your meeting:
- Welcome and thank the committee members.
- Set a schedule for committee meetings. Will they meet monthly, quarterly? Establish a firm start and stop time. Select a day, time and place that is as convenient as possible for all committee members.
- Determine who will serve as committee officers—Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, Recorder/Secretary. Perhaps it’s best to have temporary officers until the committee has met a few times. Either way, engage the members in the election process. Discuss the duties of the committee and determine which of those should initially receive the highest priority. Examples would include facility self-inspections, conducting incident/accident reviews and determining safety training topics for supervisors.
- Determine the needs for sub-committees to take responsibility for some of the priority items. Examples would be the audit/inspection group, incident/injury review group, etc. If subcommittees are formed, they can work on projects independently and meet in between full committee meetings. They can then report to the next meeting of the larger group. Working via sub-committee should also facilitate keeping the length of the full committee meetings to an hour or less.
If a topic or task begins to take up too much of the committee’s time, delegate the task to a smaller group that can meet on their own time to tackle the task at hand. Subcommittees are a great way to get non-committee members involved, who may have passion or insight into the subcommittee’s focus.
Periodically look back and see how effective the safety committee has been at creating a safer environment for your organization. The items should be quantifiable and deliberate. This will allow you and the committee to identify progress and deficiencies and further refine its efforts. If it has not made substantial change, consider changing procedures or reshuffling membership to try and improve efficacy. Be sure to celebrate successes and recognize your safety committee members for their time and dedication in demonstrating leadership in safety.
Below are additional resources around employee safety that should be considered while establishing a safety committee.