Mar 9, 2020
Interview with Drew Hinton, CSP, CHMM, SHRM-CP
If you don't currently have a safety committee at your
workplace, adding one can seem like a daunting task. Listen to
this episode with Drew Hinton, CSP, CHMM, SHRM-CP to get ten tips that are sure to help
you create and sustain a successful safety committee!
If you don't currently have a safety committee at your
workplace, adding one can seem like a daunting task. While there
are no federal regulations that require a safety committee, your
state may be one of the 15+ states that require one under certain
situations. For example, Alabama state code requires that "any
employer subject to worker's compensation rules
must establish a safety
committee upon the written require of any employee."
Connecticut states that "all employers with 25 or more
employees, and employers whose rate of injury or illness exceeds
the average OSHA recordable injury and illness rates of all
industries in the state, must
establish safety committees." However, even if it's not
required by any legislation, it can potentially save you money on
your worker's compensation premiums, but most importantly, it gets
your employees engaged in creating a safer, healthier work
Before you can tell everyone that you have a safety committee,
below are ten key guidelines that will help ensure you are getting
the most out of your safety-leading employees:
- How many people should be on your safety
committee? As a general rule of thumb, you want between
five and ten employees on your committee. Having more than that can
produce undesired results, such as meetings lasting longer than
expected, creating too much to focus on, and confirmation bias
among members. On the contrary, if you don't have enough members,
your committee may suffer from a lack of diversity, too much
workload for such a small group, and a seemingly "close-minded"
group. If you start out with a specific number during your first
few meetings and then realize that you need more to add value and
different backgrounds to your committee, you can always add more.
It's better to add more than having to essentially kick someone off
the committee just because you need to reduce numbers.
- Who should be on your safety committee? When
selecting members to be on the committee, you need to do so very
carefully and be intentional. Picking people because they are a
close friend and/or valued co-worker may seem beneficial, but it
can also lead to the confirmation bias issue mentioned previously.
At a minimum, you want to have at least one member on your
committee from each department/area. For example, you may have the
following departments/areas represented on your committee:
EHS, production, maintenance, field service, general shop,
engineering, and management.
Some companies will choose not to have upper
management attend the meetings (e.g., General Manager, Vice
President, etc.) due to people being afraid to speak up and say
something with them in the room. However, if you have established
psychological safety in the workplace (which is another issue in
itself), this shouldn't be an issue. If you do feel that management
may cause fear in others, maybe have them attend every other
meeting, or simply follow-up with them separately after the meeting
to review the meeting minutes with them one-on-one.
By doing this, you can take the ideas of your fellow safety
committee members to management and present them in an informal,
yet documented session.
- How often should your safety committee meet?
Most safety committees will meet at least once a month. However,
this can vary depending on the size of your company. If your safety
committee consists of multiple facilities, it may be best to meet
quarterly, but stay in contact at least once a month. If you have a
smaller group of members, you can schedule micro-sessions. Instead
of meeting for one hour per month, it may be more efficient to meet
for 15-20 minutes per week.
- I have a safety committee member who never shows up.
Now what? Your safety committee policy should outline the
minimum expectations of the members. Typically on an active and
efficient committee, you need to require that all members attend at
least 75% of the meetings during each calendar year.
If a member falls below this quota, you should consider getting an
alternative person to come in their place. Keep in mind, however,
that the act of being on the safety committee should be completely
voluntary, never forced.
- Once I've established a safety committee, do the
members stay on indefinitely? Depending on the size of
your company, this is up to you. However, as a best practice,
rotating out the members on an annual basis will bring a fresh set
of minds to the table to allow varying perspectives and ideas. You
can have members serve from January 1st through December 31st, July
1st through June 30th, or whatever predefined term you want to go
with. I will note that not every member needs to be rotated off.
For example, you will want to keep the EHS Dept. and
department/area supervisors on, but maybe swap out the
- What will your safety committee do? This is
where you need to determine the goals and objectives of the safety
committee. Some may want safety committees to review recent
work-related injuries and illnesses, some may want them to be the
go-to person in each department/area for safety-related issues and
concerns, whereas others may want to get the committee involved
with performing various workplace inspections (e.g., fire
extinguishers, housekeeping, etc.).
Safety committees can serve as a great cross-functional team for
getting various safety-related tasks completed in the different
areas of your workplace. Regardless of what you determine your
goals and objectives to be, you need to do more than just meet once
a month to review items that could have been sent out in an email.
Of course, you want the safety committee to help maintain a safe
workplace, but the big question is how will you do that? That is
something you will need to determine based on your site-specific
needs, but whatever you decide, be sure to document and track your
short-term and long-term goals.
- How should you track the progress of your safety
committee? If you have your goals established and
documented, you need to track the progress throughout the year.
This can be done independently or it can be included as part of
your company's KPIs, but regardless, you need to see a progression.
If your goal is to implement a new incident investigation process,
be sure and document the completion of each step. If you assigned a
specific task to someone, follow up with them and offer assistance
if they need it.
Remember, you are steering the committee, but you are also in your
position to be a coach and mentor when it comes to safe work
practices and ensuring everyone meets minimum requirements.
- Should the items discussed during meetings be
communicated to the rest of the company?
ABSOLUTELY! Topics and discussions covered at each meeting
should be documented and put into some form of "Meeting Minutes"
document, then published so that the company can see that you're
not just sitting around at 7:00 AM every week eating donuts and
talking about the news (although, that may happen from time to
time!). The meeting minutes should be posted on an employee
bulletin board, sent out via email, or communicated in whatever
method you see fit.
Employees who are aware that their company has an active safety
committee and are "in the loop" of what's going on tend to feel
better about how the company takes safety as a whole.
- What if my employees work remotely or are "out in the
field"? There are numerous web-based platforms that
employees can interact from either a computer or a smartphone. You
can choose from Microsoft Teams, Skype, GoToMeeting, WebEx, or a
number of other different video conference call programs. This
allows employees to call in from wherever they are, as well as see
the documents and PowerPoint slides that you have to show.
Not being in one place at the same time is not an excuse to not
have a safety committee. This may also be a great idea to have a
periodic meeting in which you have safety committees from other
facilities call in so that you can meet others from across the
country (or world) and gain even more diversity and experience. Use
it to your benefit!
- Will my safety committee guarantee a safer
workplace? Nothing will guarantee a safe workplace, but it
will certainly help. If utilized properly and efficiently, the
committee will help identify unsafe conditions and behaviors, help
determine corrective actions, and boost compliance with applicable
standards. BUT, that doesn't mean this is the miraculous bag of
solutions that will solve all the world's problems. Even though it
may help, it won't fix everything. It takes a lot of effort from
all employees at all levels to prevent workplace injuries and
You, along with the rest of the safety committee, must adapt to
the changing times and determine how to approach your site-specific
hazards. You are the ones that know your workplace better than
anyone, so you need to determine what works best for you. There is
no "cookie-cutter" curriculum for establishing a safety committee,
but hopefully, these tips will help guide you on the path to
Let me and Drew know what you think on LinkedIn - be sure to @
mention Drew Hinton and Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can
also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Get the full article Drew Hinton wrote on LinkedIn here.