Safety and risk committees are an incredibly powerful tool to prevent incidents and enhance the effectiveness of all organizations. Safety and risk committees bring together dedicated employees, representing departments and divisions throughout an organization. They are focused on improving and reinforcing safety and risk management initiatives and make a real impact on the organization.
Safety committees enhance employee morale, foster greater productivity, and improve standing among the various stakeholders of the organization. An effective committee sends a powerful message that management cares about the wellbeing of their employees, and the public.
When establishing safety and risk committees, careful consideration should be given to identifying the appropriate scope and duties that will be delegated to the committee as a group, and to the members who serve on the committee(s). Effective committees include representation from senior management, supervisors, and front-line employees, from across all departments or divisions. Committees should not be so large that they lose the ability to be responsive to individuals or to affect organizational changes.
For larger organizations safety committees may need to be established in individual departments and divisions, which report to a centralized risk committee. Selecting those employees that have a desire to serve on a committee and that will be actively engaged in committee activities is crucial.
The mission of the committee should be clearly stated, with well-defined objectives. These objectives reinforce the overarching mission that safety reaches beyond just complying with OSHA or other minimum requirements. Rather, safety and risk management provide a sense of purpose and a roadmap for accomplishing key organizational objectives. For example, if the organization has had several lost time workers compensation injuries, the safety committee could identify and evaluate the root cause of the injuries and form and execute a plan to correct unsafe conditions.
While many committees meet monthly, other successful committees may meet less frequently on a semi-monthly or quarterly basis. The key issue is holding well planned meetings consistently, with good committee member participation.
Safety and risk committees are most effective when they can identify issues and are empowered and provided with the resources to resolve them. When a committee is working as it should, employees and managers work together to address safety and risk concerns before injuries or claims arise.
While many may think of safety committees as simply a forum to review workplace accidents, many successful committees have much broader oversight, including many key risk management functions, which include:
Committee Member Training
Members should demonstrate a general understanding of technical safety and risk issues, familiarity with data gathering and analysis, and experience with group dynamics and meeting participation. Training may be provided internally, online and from third party resources.
A committee should be considered an investment, and management needs to provide adequate tools and resources. Committees may need funds to oversee and administer safety incentive programs and purchase safety equipment or tools.
Committees will make recommendations for corrective actions or changes in policy and procedure. The committees need to know that they have the support of management to carry out their mission and that their efforts will be sustained.
Engaging all organization stakeholders can significantly improve the visibility and support for the organization. Many successful risk committees prepare an annual report that is reviewed with the governing body (e.g., Councils, Commissions and Boards), with objectives and goals outlined for the coming year.
When safety and risk committees are engaged and empowered, they serve as a vital piece of a risk management program. With knowledgeable, enthusiastic members that develop innovated and creative solutions, these committees have a far-reaching impact on the organization. They improve the culture of safety and risk awareness throughout the organization, improve employee moral and build good will with those that are served by the organization.