In my last two articles I introduced the concept of safety-leadership activities menus, and we looked at some sample activities that might be included in a menu for front-line employees. There are two more activities that we can add to that same menu: They are Safety Committees and Safety-Program Taskforces.
Although many organizations already have the first of these in place, it’s very possible they are not as effective as they could be. Very few organizations have the second of these in place that could benefit greatly if they did. We’ll look at each of these in detail here.
This is pretty standard fare for most organizations these days. Safety committees allow opportunities for front-line employees to be actively involved in leading the safety culture. Too often, however, they become a once-a-month complaint session where nothing gets done, rather than a productive meeting where goals are accomplished.
To avoid this you’ll need to ensure the focus of these meetings is on “owning “and “assigning “ instead of “reporting problems.” Make it clear to committee members that for every “problem” they bring to the table they must also bring two potential solutions that involve their participation.
This leads me to another common mistake made with safety committees. Too often they exist solely as a “meeting.” But a safety committee should be much more than a monthly meeting. The meeting is necessary to discuss issues and solutions, but primarily it should act as a command center for distributing action items to committee members that they can execute between meetings.
A safety-program taskforce is a different type of safety committee, though it can easily be thought of as a group of “sub committees.” All of those safety programs that you currently manage through your EHS function – Lockout-Tag out, Arc Flash, Ergonomics, HazCom, PPE, Emergency Management, Confined Space, etc. – can be handed over to dedicated taskforces made up of front-line employees. There should be a separate taskforce for each safety program you maintain, and the composition of each taskforce should “make sense” in terms of who populates it.
For instance, it makes sense to assign the Lockout-Tagout (or Energy Management) program primarily to maintenance techs and/or electricians since they are likely the only employees performing those activities. Similarly, it makes sense to assign the Ergonomics program primarily to engineers because they are in the best position to do something about the design of equipment. Generically applicable programs like HazCom and Emergency Management can be assigned to a cross-functional team comprised of employees from many different areas.
The roles and responsibilities for members of these various taskforces is up to you, but they can include things like (1) maintaining and updating documentation, (2) recruiting and rotating taskforce members, (3) promoting awareness of the program to the general employee population, (4) conducting annual refresher training for employees on that program, and (5) conducting routine internal audits to ensure program compliance. The goal in any scenario is to get employees actively involved in, owning, overseeing and leading the safety culture. That’s what makes them owners of a safety culture.
So then, if employees are taking over and owning these programs, what’s the role of EHS? Hold on to that thought; we will get there in good time! In the meantime we’ll move on to the safety-leadership activities menu for the supervisor in our next article. That’s all for this edition of Recordable INSIGHTS. Until next time.