In the world of health and safety, consulting with your workforce is not just a box to tick; it’s a legal necessity. But how you go about it is your call. In smaller businesses, it can be a straightforward affair without the need for a formal health and safety committee.
However, in larger enterprises, logistics can be a real challenge without a structured committee in place.
Do I have to have a safety committee?
If two or more health and safety representatives appointed by unions put in a written request for a committee, it must be set up within three months.
It’s also considered good practice to form a health and safety committee when you have multiple representatives for employee safety, or a mix of safety and employee representatives. Here’s what you’ll need to agree on:
- The committee’s operating principles for clarity among all members.
- Who gets a seat at the table.
- The committee’s objectives and responsibilities.
- Decision-making processes and conflict resolution.
- The resources required by committee members.
The Role and Goals of Safety Committees
Safety committees have a crucial legal duty: overseeing measures taken to safeguard employees’ health and safety at work.
To set a working framework, establish agreed-upon objectives and terms of reference for the safety committee. One key aim should be fostering cooperation between employers and employees in managing workplace health and safety effectively.
Some specific tasks may include:
- Analyzing accident and notifiable disease trends.
- Reviewing safety audit reports.
- Evaluating reports and information from enforcing authority inspectors.
- Considering reports submitted by safety representatives.
- Assisting in crafting safety rules and work systems.
- Evaluating the effectiveness of employee training content.
- Monitoring the adequacy of safety and health communication in the workplace.
- Acting as a liaison with the relevant enforcing authority.
Membership of Safety Committees
The composition and structure of safety committees should be a collaborative effort between management and safety representatives. The committee should strike a balance, representing both management and employees. Management representatives should not outnumber employee representatives.
Management’s presence should ensure a sufficient level of knowledge and expertise, including work engineers, personnel managers, supervisors, and senior managers. Company specialists like safety officers, occupational health practitioners, and occupational hygienists should be automatic members, while others, such as project engineers, chemists, or training officers, can be co-opted as needed.
Conducting Safety Committees
Meeting frequency depends on factors like business size, inherent risk, and the stage of safety management system development. Allocate enough time in each meeting for thorough discussion.
Plan meeting dates well in advance, and share the schedule on company notice boards and with committee members. Send the agenda and related materials to committee members at least a week before each meeting.
Avoid cancellations or postponements except in extremely rare circumstances.
Keep minutes of every meeting, distributing them to committee members, the senior executive responsible for health and safety, and making them accessible to employees through notice boards or other means as soon as possible after the meeting.