Should you really have a safety committee?

The safety committee is a staple of many organizations—at least as described in their injury illness prevention program and safety policies. But all too often, when we look at an agency’s safety committee, we don’t see a viable, fully functioning program that contributes to the health and safety of the organization.

So you have to ask yourself: should you have a safety committee?


No Conviction, No Teeth

In the criminal justice world, we subscribe to the 3 C’s of crime prevention: severity, certainty, and celerity. Yes, I know, the first one starts with an S; it’s called the 3 C’s based on phonics. The point is that the effectiveness of crime deterrence comes down to these three factors. How severe is the punishment, how certain is it that it will be enforced, and how swiftly will it be applied.

It works similarly when an organization fails to enforce its safety and health policies. If employees can skirt those safety rules with impunity, or if the punishment is weak or doesn’t come quickly enough, the rules are toothless. And ultimately, the policy goes in the trash.


If You’re Going To Do It…

The same concept holds for your safety committee. If it’s on paper, but you’re not really doing it, then it doesn’t matter.

Look, the law does not require safety committees. They are optional. If you choose to start a safety committee, you must take specific actions, and they must be done well. This is what you need to do to have an effective committee. See the image above of CalOSHA’s requirements for a safety committee under the Injury Illness Prevention Program standard.

This is a problem I encounter often, and not just with safety committees. It’s this concept of doing something halfway, of mailing it in, or not putting the resources or effort into it. If you’re going to have a safety committee, then go all the way. Do your best to make it count.

Think About Your Safety Committee Today

There is considerable value in implementing a safety committee. You can identify safety hazards before they become incidents. Bringing work incidents down can reduce your worker’s compensation costs. The committee can provide cultural benefits to your organization. Via the committee, employees feel they have a say in how things are run.

So, the assignment for today is to think about your safety committee. If you’re in charge of it, ask yourself if you have done everything you can with your safety committee. Does your committee fulfill the requirements of CalOSHA? If you’re an employee, ask yourself how often you receive notices from or about the safety committee. Do you even know who is on the safety committee? Answering these questions will help your safety committee become valuable to your organization.

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