What is the role of a health and safety committee?
Your company wants to put the health and safety of its employees at the forefront of business, but sometimes that can get very tricky. With the more services you start to offer, or the more products being created, or the larger the company grows, the higher the number of moving parts at play. That’s where a Safety Committee comes in.
Safety Committees are a leadership team, either locally at a single location or at the corporate level, that makes decisions about safety practices and standards. With the help of EHS Software (Environment, Health, and Safety software) the purpose of a Safety Committee is to create an environment of safety at work.
Safety in the workplace is related to both injury and illness. Safety Committees regularly hold meetings with employees and management to make sure everyone understands specific safety protocols and also ensures all protocols are easily and correctly implemented.
When a Safety Committee is working effectively and properly, both management and employees communicate potential safety hazards and prevent these hazards from causing injury. Safety Committees are usually run by EHS managers and are sometimes also attended by lower-level employees who volunteer to participate.
Without a Safety Committee in place, a company would not be able to function properly due to employee injuries, health issues, and potentially catastrophic financial risks. This is especially true in industrial environments where the risk of physical injury or health hazards is higher than in other industries.
Safety committee responsibilities
Safety Committees have several responsibilities, always with the ultimate goal of protecting employees through specific practices and reducing (and ideally eliminating) workplace injury and accidents. These responsibilities include:
- Informing and educating employees about safety standards in the workplace.
- Creating documents that outline specific workplace safety practices and making those documents easily accessible to all employees. This also includes updating these safety documents when changes are made.
- Holding regular training for all employees.
- Regularly hosting company-wide workplace inspections and safety audits.
- Encouraging breaks in the workplace. This is an important responsibility that should not be overlooked, as overworked employees is a leading cause of injury at work.
- Implementing a reward system for employees when safe behavior is practiced.
- Reviewing data about the safety performance of the organization (where available).
- Discussing any and all incidents and taking swift action to correct safety issues.
- Reviewing metrics such as Lost Time Injury, on-time training completion rates, turnaround times, action item completion rates, and other common methods for evaluating safety.
- Safety Committees sometimes establish company policies regarding Management of Change (MOC).
- MOC governs the procedure that everyone must follow when implementing process, equipment, or personnel changes. MOC procedures can be plant-specific or company-wide.
Benefits of a safety committee
There are numerous benefits of having an effective Safety Committee in place. Below are just a few of the ways a committee can help your organization and employees.
Things run smoothly
With a Safety Committee in place, equipment stays up-to-date and running smoothly (and therefore, safely) by tracking changes and monitoring the latest updates. Environmental, health and safety risks are reduced. All while staying in compliance with industry regulations such as OSHA Process Safety Management (PSM) and EPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP).
Employees are protected
Safety Committees help to maintain the proper amount of employees needed on shift for specific tasks, eliminating the dangers associated with being understaffed. Safety Committees also help educate staff to ensure they are aware of how to operate machinery and hazards in a safe way. They also track employee breaks so that employees can feel rested rather than overworked. This protects employee health and safety while optimizing workflow.
Company policies are established (and Tracked)
In well-disciplined organizations, company policies are established through the Management of Change (MOC) process by the Safety Committee. As mentioned above, MOCs are used to monitor and facilitate things such as changes in equipment, operational procedures and staffing / organization.
MOC software is an effective tool that can help by both establishing and enforcing standard procedures throughout a company. It can help with things such as change in management, task tracking (tracking the approval, progress and completion). MOC can identify task workflows by outlining who specifically is working on which tasks and listing the completion dates, which results in optimized workflows. It can also address organizational changes, such as activating or deactivating security credentials.
In addition to saving lives and keeping employees safe, having a Safety Committee in place has financial benefits. When specific protocols are followed and maintained under the Committee, litigation and insurance costs are reduced and expensive fines and penalties can be avoided. Not to mention, the organization is more likely to have a respectable reputation that others want to work for and conduct business with over time.
Best practices for your safety committee
When it comes to Safety Committees, it’s important to keep these few practices in play to ensure your committee is consistently effective:
Add new members to the committee every two to three years. This helps keep practices and ideas fresh for ensuring health and safety. While some companies nominate employees to the Safety Committee, you’re likely to have a more productive committee if you let employees volunteer for the position.
Communication is key
Always communicate to employees the company’s commitment to a health and safety program. While this might seem obvious, it can be easy to forget. By making this known to employees, chances are they’ll be more comfortable expressing health and safety concerns in the workplace.
While MOC is mandatory for Process Safety Management (PSM)-covered sites, usually ones working with dangerous chemicals as defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), it’s also considered a best practice for all industrial companies.
Use a software program rather than outdated forms and documents to easily keep everything updated. Track all company-wide changes, keep everything in one place, and manage important health and safety items.
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