Do I need to document our safety committee meetings?

Yes. Each safety meeting should be documented and minutes taken. It is recommended that one copy of the minutes from the most recent safety committee meeting be posted for review by all employees. Additionally, one copy should be maintained as a permanent record. In addition, copies should be forwarded to appropriate members of upper management.

How can I ensure that my safety committee will be effective?

The effectiveness of a safety committee is dependent upon the level of commitment and support afforded by the company's upper management. Clear and definitive guidelines must be established (preferably in writing). These guidelines should identify the specific goals, objectives and functions of the safety committee, as well as any limitations. Upper management should also clearly define any authority afforded to the safety committee. It must be remembered however that ultimate responsibility cannot be delegated to a safety committee. Direct responsibility for the safety efforts of the company must lie with a single management representative. In addition to defining guidelines for the safety committee, it is also the function of management to ensure that each safety committee meeting is productive. To ensure the productivity of each safety committee meeting, each meeting should be well organized and follow a specific agenda. To facilitate this, it is recommended that the member of management responsible for safety efforts conduct the safety committee meetings and hold the permanent title of Safety Committee Chairperson. This person should have defined responsibilities and authority relative to safety, and should be accountable for the overall safety efforts of the company.

Who should be on the safety committee?

Upper management supervisors, laborers and union representatives (if applicable) should all be included in any safety committee. This sends several important messages:
  • Safety is everyone's responsibility.
  • Input from all levels is both desired and needed.
  • Safety demands a team effort and, regardless of title or position, everyone is on the same team.
In addition to representation from all levels of the company's hierarchy, a safety committee should comprise personnel from various departments. This not only provides the safety committee with a diverse range of talents and knowledge, but also ensures companywide representation. Although safety committees should be representative of the company, the size of the safety committee should be limited. A safety committee that grows too large may produce more debate than action, or may create a group of listeners. If feasible, it is recommended that the safety committee be composed of a contingent of permanent (or semipermanent) safety committee members, as well as personnel who rotate in and out of the safety committee. To ensure continuity, it is recommended that no more than one-third of the safety committee personnel rotate. The experiences of many successful safety committees has shown that allowing personnel to become involved in the safety committee meetings on a rotating basis helps to strengthen safety consciousness companywide. Permanent (or semipermanent) committee members should be selected or elected on the basis of experience, knowledge and leadership qualities, not popularity.

How often should a safety committee meet?

As there is no requirement for how often a safety committee needs to meet, it is entirely up to the organization’s needs. Holding monthly safety committee meetings is standard practice for most organizations.

Does OSHA require that an organization have a safety committee?

While OSHA does not require safety committees, the state of Montana does (the state law is within the Montana Safety Culture Act). It reads as follows: It is the intent of the department that employer and employees meet together for the purpose of creating a safety culture in Montana workplaces and reducing on-the-job injuries and illnesses, in the hope that by improving occupational safety, workers’ compensation insurance rates for all industries in Montana will be reduced. Therefore, all employers with more than five employees are required to have a safety committee. The requirements, numbered and in bold print, are followed by department recommendations. Every Safety Committee Shall: 1.  Be composed of employee and employer representatives and hold regularly scheduled meetings, at least once every four months. RECOMMENDATIONS: The safety committee should:
  • Be of sufficient size and number to provide for effective representation of the workforce.
  • Have more than one safety committee for employers with multiple sites.
2.  Include in its employee membership volunteers or members elected by their peers. 3.  Include safety committee activities that assist the employer in fact finding. RECOMMENDATIONS: The department recommends that the committee document its activities and act as a fact-finding body and report to the employer regarding:
  • Assessing and controlling hazards.
  • Assessing safety training and awareness topics.
  • Communication with employees regarding safety committee activities.
  • Developing safety rules, policies and procedures.
  • Educating employees on safety-related topics.
  • Evaluating the safety program on a regular basis.
  • Inspecting the workplace.
  • Keeping job-specific training current.
  • Motivating employees to create a safety culture in the workplace.
  • Reviewing incidents of workplace accidents, injuries and illnesses.

What type of functions do safety committees engage in?

The conceivable functions of the safety committee are numerous and likely to be different for every organization. When determining the safety committee functions best suited to your organization, keep several things in mind. One: Regardless of the size or type of the operation, safety committee meetings are typically warranted at a minimum frequency of monthly. Two: The functions of the safety committee should assist the company in both the identification and the control (or elimination) of hazards. Three: The functions of the safety committee should strive toward achievement of predetermined goals and objectives. The following is a sample of common functions of safety committees.
  • Inspect areas of the facility to identify hazards.
  • Brainstorm to identify means of controlling or eliminating hazards.
  • Evaluate existing safety programs and training.
  • Develop and/or revise safety rules.
  • Promote safety and health throughout the workplace.
  • Conduct incident/accident investigations.

What are advantages to having a safety committee?

The benefits of an effective safety committee program are virtually unlimited. Each individual benefit enables the company as a whole to press closer to the ultimate goal of reducing workplace injuries and illnesses to zero. Here are just a few of the benefits common to many safety committee programs.
  • Research shows that employees are more likely to support and use programs in which they have had input and the safety committee is the perfect vehicle for that input.
  • Employees are the ones in contact with potential hazards within the scopes of their jobs and have good insight into how to make safety improvements.
  • Employees have a vested interest in making their environment safer.
  • Productive safety committees make group decisions and group decision-making has the advantage of the group’s wider field of experience.
  • Employees who are encouraged to offer their ideas and whose contributions are taken seriously are more satisfied and productive.
  • The more that employees are involved in the various facets of the program, the more they will learn about safety, what is causing injuries at their facility and how they can systematically reduce the risks.
  • The more employees know and understand, the greater their awareness will be and the stronger the safety culture of the organization will become.