Safety committees are a common strategy for engaging employees into the safety management process. A strategy that empowers employees to take action, solve problems and become safety leaders. As safety committees mature they can often take on a life of there own quickly turning into complaint sessions. Loosing focus of how and why they were developed in the first place; making them ineffective and unsupported.

If your committee is loosing focus, unproductive or doesn’t call employees to action consider an Action Based Safety Committee that includes the following.

  • Developing a Plan
  • Setting the Stage
  • Recognizing Accomplishments
  • Your Projects + Your Way = Safety Success

Developing a Plan

Answer the “What”

When starting a safety committee ask what the team wants to achieve. Push your thinking forward one, two or three years from now. By starting with the end in mind you can develop a solid plan to achieve it.

In Action Based Safety Committees the “what” could be something like – Develop a diverse team that is empowered to take action by completing value added safety projects. Increasing safety awareness, participation and support within the organization. While these are subjective in nature they can be further defined as goals are developed.

Group Makeup

Include a cross sectional group of employees consisting of both management and floor level team members. Find individuals that have a lot of influence in your operation. These are typically the most outspoken and sometimes difficult employees. If you get them involved there influence can quickly become a positive force pushing safety down into the organization.

When selecting management representatives the senior site person should be involved to show support for the process. In addition, a budget should be developed and the final approver should attend meetings to keep projects moving forward in a timely manner. Pick a small number of key management personnel to support the process so they don’t dominate meetings.

Setting Team Goals

Goals should be developed that drive the team to achieving the “what” you previously identified. Measurables that team members have participated in developing, have influence in completing and can be tracked to show progress are typically much more successful then standard lagging measurables such as the OSHA Frequency rate.

Leading measurables are the drivers to get lagging measurable results. An example of leading measurables might be:

  • Value Added Projects Completed
  • Employee Participation Percentage
  • Tool Box Talks Communicating Recent Completed Safety Projects
  • Safety Survey Results
  • Or any others the team develops that aligns with achieving the “what”

Setting the Stage

When I visit companies and sit in there safety committee meetings, many times, I hear a lot of complaining and little progress. If team members are not called to action completing tasks they find value in little progress is made. Finding projects that are safety related, that members find value in and are willing to own to completion is a cornerstone of an empowered team.

Consider focusing the group on the critical few projects that will influence your “what” and not on a laundry list of complaints for management to complete. One way to add focus is to implement a strategy utilizing facility specific injury data, brainstorming and ranking. Below is an example of how this process might be used.

  1. Split everyone into small sub-teams teams of three or so and assign a team leader to each group.
  2. Share the facility safety data with the teams highlighting areas of concern. Have each team develop a list of actions to consider based on the safety data presented or personal concerns.
  3. Combine all the lists and have the entire committee rank each idea a 1, 2 or 3 with 1’s being the highest priority.
  4. List all the 1’s and have each sub-team pick one project to work on until completion. Limit projects to one per sub-team to focus the effort. Remember, these are the projects they picked from the list of number 1 priorities. Note: All items that are or could be immediately dangerous to life or health must be addressed immediately.
  5. Have each team develop a project plan drafting what actions need to be completed, any capital expenses, owners and completion dates

During each meeting all sub-teams meet individually as work groups completing their projects, updating project plans and presenting to the entire team what the project is, what steps they are taking, any support needed and actions to be completed on or before the next meeting.

Recognizing Accomplishments

Making sure people feel valued is a critical step in building an action based safety committee. Many times the actions employees take go unnoticed, leaving many to feel unappreciated for the contributions they make. Building positive relationships, saying thank you and showing appreciation can promote active participation and help ensure employees feel valued.

As projects are completed or milestones reached finding ways to keep people motivated can often be the difference between success and failure. Below are a few ways to reward and recognize employee contributions:

  • Have each team complete tool box talks on the projects being completed
  • Review completed projects at all employee meetings
  • Post before and after pictures listed team members involved
  • Ask the team how they want to be recognized
  • Have a pizza party
  • Make an effort to say thank you in person
  • Have the senior site person write a thank you letter and send it to the employee’s home.

There are countless ways to say thank you. The key is to make sure you do timely, often and in a way your team responds to.

Your Projects + Your Way = Safety Success

Action based safety committees are focused on the critical few items that will drive organizations to the “what” they want to accomplish. Empowering employees at all levels within the organization to own, drive and complete projects that they feel are important. Generating “wins” when projects are completed, driving change, increasing participation and overall safety program success.

Joe Tavenner CSP, CFPS has years of experience, a bachelors and Masters degree in Occupational Safety Management and an MBA in Management. For more information contact him at