A culture is not built from the top down; having management dictate behaviours and habits is not an effective way to create them. Safety culture leadership has to come from all levels of an organization, as buy-in is essential and is best done when everyone feels a sense of ownership over the culture and the systems.
Site safety committees (or project safety committees) are a good way to achieve safety culture leadership that motivates and engages all employees. Essentially, these are groups of people from all parts of a project (including subcontractors, vendors, employees, management etc) who come together in a committee to oversee and discuss safety issues.
They should be broad and inclusive. Not only does this allow a range of perspectives, ideas, and expertise to be included in the meetings, but it helps to engage more people on the site or project. Those on the committee are taking on a leadership role, and those that work with them daily have a direct link to what’s going on, and can provide feedback get information from their colleagues.
What, however, do they actually do? The following are a few important roles of site safety committees, and how to ensure they are fulfilling them effectively.
Objectives of a safety committee
Planning ahead rather than just reacting after something happens is a vital function of site safety committees. This means developing and implementing safe work practices, identifying hazards before they cause accidents, scheduling inspections, and all of the routine practices that go into ensuring a site is safe. Good planning goes a long way.
Analysis of incident reports
When something goes wrong, an investigation is done and reports are made—but where does that information go? Often, it’s to a safety committee, where it is analyzed and used to equip and inform future safety practices.
The committee should determine the root causes of any incident, and then discuss corrective actions and changes that could be made to the safety culture to prevent it happening again. This ties back into the safety planning element of the committee’s role. Varied perspectives and knowledge are hugely helpful in analyzing incidents from all angles.
Encouraging and overseeing training
Keeping workers up to date with necessary safety training and certification is another vital role of a safety committee and an important aspect of safety culture leadership.
This means keeping track of any government, state or province-mandated (depending on your location) training certifications—these could be required by OSHA in the United States, by CCOHS in Canada, or by other local and national governing bodies.
Software like SafetyTek’s employee training matrix can help hugely with the administration of training requirements, particularly on sites with a lot of workers doing different jobs.
Setting goals and priorities
Putting into place measurable, attainable goals for onsite safety is one of the responsibilities of a site or project safety committee. Depending on the length of the project, these might be set at monthly, quarterly, six-monthly or annual intervals.
During meetings, a committee will also review the goals and whether they have been achieved. Setting goals drives progress in any organisation, and establishing priorities makes it easier for the committee to determine where their attention should be focused.
Advocating for safety awareness
Beyond the committee meetings themselves, the members should bring their knowledge and awareness of safety issues into the worksite. They should be the site’s biggest and most active safety advocates, and leaders of the onsite safety culture.
Spreading information and educating is a key objective for the safety committee, and its individual members can perhaps do this most effectively during their everyday work. Being informed about safety issues due to their involvement in the committee means that they are well-placed to lead by example—and by educating their colleagues as opportunities arise.
Tips for effective safety committees
While this isn’t a high-level purpose of a committee, it is important! Safety systems are always evolving, and new information is coming to light through near misses and other onsite events.
A regularly scheduled meeting time is vital to keeping on top of safety. It can happen that not everyone will be available for every meeting, but make an effort to get all members there as often as possible.
Ensure a cross-section of people
We said it before, but it bears repeating. A site safety committee should consist of employees from all aspects of a project or site. It’s a matter of representation—all those working on the project or site should feel that their group has a voice.
Mix labor force and management for a good mix of members. Selecting the representatives from each group can be done in a number of ways, but it is a good idea to ask people who are naturally interested in or passionate about safety.
Educate the committee
In order to make well-informed decisions regarding safety, committee members should be up-to-date and educated. Extra training for the safety committee is a smart investment and a path to a safer site—which in turn is better on the bottom line.
Topics might include recordkeeping requirements, employer obligations, and hazard recognition. There are plenty of possibilities, and trainings can be tailored to what’s relevant on your site.
Have a clear mission
To guide discussions and planning, the committee should have a mission statement that’s simple, practical and attainable. It should clarify the overall role of the committee, and outline the ideal safety conditions for the site or project.
Inject some fun
Make the safety committee interesting and enjoyable, and the members will more readily participate to the best of their ability. Boring meetings become a chore and an obligation, and those attending want to get them over and done with as soon as possible—an attitude which does not bode well for safety outcomes!
Consider including personal reflections and stories in the agenda, bringing in guest speakers, providing fun snacks and including a game or quiz to spark interest in a topic.
Leading a safety culture
Tasked with overseeing safety on a site or project from all angles, a diverse and engaged safety committee is a huge asset. Although set up by management, such a group should be representative of all parts of the workforce, offering an array of perspectives and a huge amount of expertise.
At SafetyTek we are all about keeping people safe on worksites, whatever their role. Take a look at the features of our safety software and how it can help a safety committee to implement their decisions and achieve their goals.