Safety committees can be a valuable resource for municipal risk managers to gain assistance, increase communication, and expand safety program buy-in for identifying and managing agency-wide exposures. While there is no specific requirement to have a safety committee, Cal/OSHA’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program requirement, CCR Title 8, Section 3203, requires all employers to include in their safety program a system for communicating with employees. Compliance with this requirement can include meetings, training programs, postings, written communications, and committees. The California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (California JPIA) encourages its members to consider establishing a safety committee with the following tips in mind.
Understanding factors contributing to a committee’s success is important when developing a new committee or re-inventing a current one. Successful safety committees involve strong management buy-in, building the right team, and careful goal and objective setting. Establishing specific goals and objectives for the committee will help guide meeting topics and drive action item follow through. The following is an example of a committee’s typical responsibilities that, when followed, substantially meet Cal/OSHA’s Guidelines:
- Meet regularly and make available to affected employees written records of the meetings and the safety and health issues discussed.
- Review accidents involving employees to make certain the actions taken to prevent recurrence are adequate.
- Monitor accident statistics to determine trends and problem areas.
- Review safety training needs and current training programs for adequacy and compliance.
- Initiate programs to stimulate and maintain employee interest in safety.
- Review and evaluate safety and health recommendations from all sources, including safety inspections, employee suggestions, and complaints.
Outlining these responsibilities through a written policy or charter can help avoid frustrations associated with unclear objectives or poorly defined roles.
The next step to success involves gaining management support for committee activities and objective-setting. Gaining management support and involvement is critical for a committee to thrive. It provides essential backing and credibility for the committee’s goals and valuable resources for committee initiatives. Management involvement also assists with meeting attendance and other internal committee routines that must be managed.
Building a safety committee with advocates from throughout the agency is the next important step toward success. Doing so can prove to be a great way to involve employees at all levels of the organization in the agency’s safety program, giving their voice a conduit into meaningful discussions that affect their safety and their co-workers’ safety. Having equal representation helps bring diverse perspectives to the table and provides a forum for workers who may be reluctant to approach management with safety issues. Getting the right people on the team from the start and utilizing all available resources can lead to an impactful committee’s proper support structure.
Having a successful safety committee requires sound planning, effective organizing, and strong leadership. Consider the following four tips in establishing or re-inventing an agency’s committee:
- Obtain Management Buy-In – Successful committees start with strong leadership.
- State the Purpose – Establish clear guidelines and goals for the committee to follow.
- Build the Committee – Seek representation from throughout the agency. Give these participants specific direction on expectations and their roles to ensure they understand the committee’s purpose and objectives.
- Plan & Organize – Lay the groundwork for how the committee will operate and what the expectations are of the committee’s members. Stress accountability.
Cal/OSHA’s guide for establishing an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program provides informative tips and resources for safety committee development
Providing innovative risk management solutions for its public agency partners for more than 40 years, the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (California JPIA) is one of the largest municipal self-insurance pools in the state, with more than 120 member cities and other governmental agencies. Members actively participate in shaping the organization to provide important coverage for their operations. The California JPIA provides innovative risk management solutions through a comprehensive portfolio of programs and services, including liability, workers’ compensation, pollution, property, and earthquake coverage, as well as extensive training and loss control services. For more information, please visit the California JPIA’s website at cjpia.org.