How to Properly Established Your Safety Committee
Establishing a proper Workplace Safety Committee is one way management can encourage employees to participate in implementing and monitoring an organization’s safety program. A properly functioning safety committee fulfills several functions. Committee members should be able to identify problems, use their range of insights to seek solutions, and have the authority and expertise to implement essential policies and procedures. Here are some tips to ensure successful implementation.
Step One: Select a Committee
For most missions, a safety committee of 3–6 individuals, plus an additional person to take notes, is ideal. If your committee is smaller than this, you may suffer from not having sufficient diverse perspectives. If your committee is larger than this, there may be too much discussion and not enough action.
Your safety committee needs a champion. This person does not necessarily need to be the chair of the committee, but should be someone who cares deeply about safety and doing things the right way.
We recommend your committee include:
- Both men and women
- Line staff—people who know what procedure is being followed, and how it is being followed, which is not always the way it is written down
- An individual who reports directly to the CEO, or other senior leadership, to share perspective on what the committee is trying to accomplish. This person will also update the CEO/senior leadership on the actions of the committee
Step Two: Schedule Regular Meetings
Your committee must meet regularly to be effective. We recommend monthly meetings, though different time frames may work better for different organizations. Try to avoid scheduling your meeting on Mondays or Fridays. Those days typically have more than the usual number of emergencies or distractions. Even if every member cannot make every meeting, we recommend having it the same time, place, and day each month. This gives the committee a more permanent feel.
Your meeting agenda is simple.
- Review old issues and related actions taken
- Discuss new issues
For example, if you decide in your first meeting that you need to train those who drive mission vehicles, you will need to decide on a training protocol. In subsequent meetings, someone will be responsible for updating the committee with data on how the driver training is progressing. In the second meeting, someone may bring up the issue that there may not be enough fire extinguishers in one of your buildings. At the next meeting, there will need to be an update on the survey of fire extinguishers as well as the recommendations of the local fire extinguisher professionals or the fire marshal.
Whenever a new issue a raised, and the committee agrees to address it, a point person must be selected. That person will be responsible for tracking the implementation and reporting back to the committee. Note: This person should not be expected to change something all by himself or herself. They are merely responsible for tracking progress.
Step Three: Review Your Operations
Here are some topics we encourage your committee to discuss. This is not an exhaustive list, but it should get your discussion started. If you need further resources on best practices, contact your regional Merriam Insurance representative or your AGRM Certification Consultant.
- Is there a policy (what you do) and procedure (how you do it) manual for building maintenance?
- Where are the potential areas for slips and falls?
- Is the cleaning adequate and sufficiently frequent?
- Are there adequate and functional handrails by all stairs?
- Is there appropriate lighting throughout?
Go through each job description. What potential is there for:
- Slips and falls
- Lifting something and hurting a back
- Getting sick from materials, fumes, etc. on the job
- Slicing, chopping, or crushing a body part
- Being in a car accident while on the job
- Review safety training given. Is it accurate and sufficient?
- How is the driving record of those who drive mission vehicles, or their own vehicles on mission business, screened?
- How is driver training being done?
- How do you find out if drivers are behaving appropriately, or inappropriately, on the road?
- Is your vehicle checklist sufficient? Is it completed before the vehicle is taken out on the road each day?
- Are your written driving rules adequate? How are they posted and monitored?
- Have each of your drivers signed a document acknowledging their understanding of the driving rules?
- What is your policy for backing up large vehicles?
- How do you ensure guests get the right medication?
- How do you ensure guests are not bringing in contraband?
- How do you ensure all guests are treated fairly and not discriminated against?
- Have you identified areas where guests might get injured?
- If guests participate in work therapy, how are they trained?
- How are they supervised?
Thrift Operations Safety
- Who is responsible for proper maintenance of your equipment? (forklift, bailer, etc.)?
- Who ensures the Point of Sale system is compliant and that credit card information is secure?
- Is there a daily cleaning procedure?
- How frequently are fixtures (like shelving and clothing racks) checked for safety?
- How do you ensure merchandise will not fall and hit customers (the source of many thrift store claims)?
- Although normally discouraged, do employees or volunteers move heavy furniture?
- What sort of repairs do you provide to merchandise you sell? Doing so may increase your liability!
- Do you have sufficient signage saying all sales are “as-is”?
- Do you have video camera coverage in the store and in parking lots?
Please note: None of these lists are exhaustive. They are designed to outline a few key issues and get discussion started. Many missions invest in a full risk-assessment to understand the issues that they uniquely face. Once you have identified the areas where you want or need to make changes, decide what changes you want to make.
Typically, your options are to:
- Eliminate the practice
- Add additional safety features
- Add training
- Develop a checklist to make certain a practice happens consistently
When you have decided on your course of action, you must decide how to communicate this change and how to monitor it to make sure it happens consistently.
Step 4: Monitor Your Results
At every meeting, you should review the results of all previous safety interventions or changes. You cannot expect that just because you said, one year ago, that floors should be cleaned every day, they are still being cleaned every day. You always need to monitor your results, or they will eventually disintegrate.
In the interest of ease of monitoring, find ways for the line staff to document that they are following the practices the safety committee instituted. One of the best ways to do this is through SHORT checklists. You might have someone who checks the emergency lighting in your building monthly, and completes a checklist for each light he or she checks. You might decide you need your head of maintenance to walk each floor of each building once a month to see if he spots any problem areas. He or she should have a checklist for each floor.
Every three months, we encourage you to write up your results and share them with the mission’s leadership team and Board. You are doing work that is critical to the ongoing success of the mission, and it is essential that your leaders know about and understand this stewardship you are exercising. They may also have valuable insight and input as well.
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