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Safety - Health and Safety Committee

Getting employees engaged with their own health and safety can be difficult. Top-down workplace initiatives may fail to grab the interest of staff and thus not accomplish their goals with the greatest efficacy. So how can you get employees more involved with their wellness? A health and safety committee is a potential solution to this problem that can be implemented in most workplaces to great effect.

Goal


Form a workplace health and safety committee with employee involvement.

What is a Health and Safety Committee?
A health and safety committee is a group that consists of worker and employer representatives. Though technically required by legislation for all companies that have 20 or more regular workers many workplaces still do not have such a system in place. The idea was originally introduced by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which tasked employers with a responsibility to ensure that their staff are kept free from harm. The act outlines a comprehensive legal framework for many safety regulations, one of which is an implementation of committees that has been found to be particularly effective for promoting a culture of health and safety in the workplace. Through these groups workers and managers can together take a holistic look at all workplace health and safety issues, generating a common consensus on wellness topics as they relate to employees.

How does a Health and Safety Committee improve employee engagement and culture?
Through the direct involving of employees with this process a greater sense of commitment is fostered, one which naturally leads to increased employee engagement. Through regular meetings, potential health and safety issues are brought to the forefront of attention, while allowing staff to have a say in the concerns that impact them the most. Another key factor is the foundational principle of the internal responsibility system. This principle says that all people in the workplace have a responsibility for health and safety in their environment. The formation of a formal committee solidifies this sense of responsibility. This system asks for more participation from the workforce while giving them a platform through which their grievances can be aired and responded to. As a result, in addition to a sense of accomplishment, room is created to innovate on wellness concerns in a way that would not be possible otherwise.

What are the benefits?
Greater employee engagement
Stronger relationships formed with fellow committee members
Improved awareness of health and safety issues
Broad base of health and safety knowledge becomes available
Creation of a platform for issues to be raised
Reduction in workplace dangers and risks

How do you create a Health and Safety Committee in the workplace?
A successful health and safety committee is one that creates a space for health and safety issues to be discussed and resolved. Committee members should meet on a regular basis and members should be encouraged to contribute their own expertise and ideas. With a centralized committee, all employees will have a group to which they can raise concerns and file complaints around the topic of wellness. A good committee should accommodate these issues while educating fellow workers on topics of health and safety. Recommendations should be implemented to the best of the workplace’s ability. Remember, it is critical that the role of the committee remains focused on health and safety and avoids issues of work and management.

Action


Create a Health and Safety Committee

Come to a decision on key elements. Before forming this committee, choices need to be made regarding core aspects of the group. This includes basic questions of the number of members to involve, when the committee should meet and for how long, and how decisions will be made, whether by consensus or a different method. You should consider whether the group will be run by a single chairperson or a system of cochairs. Other topics that should be resolved include whether special training should be given to members and how long members will be expected to serve – a minimum of one year is suggested. See reference 1 page 8 and 9 for a more comprehensive list of questions to review.

Invite employees to participate. More than half of the committee should consist of employees who do not have managerial functions. Be sure to invite members from different departments and areas of the workplace. Make sure to clarify with them the role of the committee in the office.

Assign roles. It is recommended that a chairperson or cochairs should be designated to handle the running and scheduling of the meeting as well as the resolution of in-group conflicts. They would also be responsible for filing recommendations to the employer at large. A secretary should be selected to keep meeting minutes and to notify members of upcoming meetings. Regular members will be expected to contribute their expertise and knowledge.

Formulate a complaint process and share committee information. Decide on a safety complaint and/or suggestion process, whether verbal or written. Also designate an area where committee information will be available to all employees, including info like group minutes, member lists and contact information.

Brainstorm. Start generating ideas about potential health and safety issues with the committee. These could range from topics of office ergonomics to air quality to safe evacuation practices. Record down what comes up.

Form an agenda. This should be circulated before meetings and should include minutes from previous meetings, date, time and location of the upcoming meeting, a review of any unfinished business, complaints and suggestions, newly identified health risks to consider and info about any special sessions or training that may be planned.

Conduct a meeting. Make sure that it starts and ends at the specified times. It should be run on paid time. Review health and safety concerns and come to a consensus on recommendations regarding these issues. Try to ensure that suggestions are practical and that there is the authority to enact these changes (or that these recommendations can be forwarded to someone who does have that authority).

Determine next steps. Enact changes as needed to carry out the recommendations specified by the committee. Rinse and repeat with regularly scheduled meetings.

Reference Material
Guide to Workplace Health & Safety Committees
Guide: Setting Up a Workplace Health and Safety Committee

Updated on: 08/18/2023

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