How safety committees can make a real difference

by on December 20, 2011 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

Safety committees get a bad rap sometimes: too many meetings, too much talk, too few results.

But they can make a difference in promoting and improving workplace safety – if you set the right expectations and have the right metrics in place to make sure your goals are met.

The problem: Poor execution
When safety committees don’t work, the problem usually isn’t poor strategy or lack of motivation. It’s poor execution.

Say, for example, your committee is tasked with reducing back injuries. At the beginning, enthusiasm is high. Everybody has lots of ideas on how to fix the problem.

But after a couple of meetings, the committee’s still stuck in neutral.

Perhaps some people feel their time is being wasted – after all, there’s work to be done. Or that the meeting has been reduced to “housekeeping suggestion of the week.”

So they skip meetings, show up late or come unprepared. Nobody sticks to the agenda. Next thing you know, nothing is getting done and you get to thinking that, sure enough, safety committees don’t work.

FIRST fix the process
Not so, says safety consultant Robert Ryan – you can get great results. But it’s important to get the process right first. Managing the committee’s process may seem less important than tackling a tough safety challenge, but it’s where committees succeed or fail, he says.

Metrics are the real key to managing the process, Ryan says. Pick a dozen metrics and track them. Examples:

  • Meetings start and end on time.
  • Agenda is provided 24 hours ahead of time so members can review it.
  • The meeting follows the agenda and stays focused.
  • Topics are meaningful and relevant.
  • The leader is properly prepared.
  • Appropriate personnel are invited.
  • Attendance is 90% or better.
  • Participation is broad-based; one or two people don’t dominate.
  • Past action items are followed up on.
  • New action items are assigned.
  • Key information is summarized.

Score the results
Score a 1 for each if the committee’s activity is satisfactory and 0 if it’s not. Post the aggregate results so everybody knows how the committee is doing.

These activities are all pretty basic, of course. But that’s the point: It’s easy to overlook the basics unless you track them.

Tracking these metrics over time will help establish an objective, performance-based approach that will:

  • tell you whether the committee is functional or dysfunctional;
  • help you set clear expectations and hold committee members accountable; and
  • allow you to track and improve the committee’s performance over time.

Key Performance Indicators
Next, identify key performance indicators (KPIs) – the activities that are most closely aligned with the results you’re trying to achieve.

KPIs help ensure that the committee’s work stays focused on the ultimate goal and doesn’t drift off into tangents. To keep that focus razor sharp, limit your KPIs to just the most critical activities.

Say, for example, the committee’s role is to analyze back-injury reports, identify root causes, recommend changes and follow up to see if these changes are effective.

In this example, KPIs might include:

  • Committee reviews all back-injury reports within one month of occurrence.
  • For each injury, the committee identifies at least one root cause and proposes a recommendation.
  • Committee reviews back-injury trend data at each meeting to track progress against goals.

Simple, objective, measurable
KPIs work when they’re simple, objective and measurable. Either the committee reviewed all the reports or it didn’t. Either it identified a root cause or it didn’t. Either it issued a recommendation or it didn’t.

Here are examples of what won’t work as KPIs:

  • Committee provides guidance to the safety director on critical issues.
  • Committee develops effective strategies for reducing back injuries.

Goals like these may be laudable, but they’re too subjective and virtually impossible to measure. The committee will spend half its time debating whether they were met, and you have no way to track them over time.

What if you work the plan and still don’t see results? You’ll know the problem isn’t with execution, so it’s time to revisit the strategy.

Choose new KPIs and start over. If your safety committee has the right people and is well led, you’ll eventually get to the KPIs that work.


Click to View Comments

Leave a Reply


Request a Free Demo

We'd love to show you how this industry-leading training system can help you develop your team. Please fill out this quick form or give us a call at 877-792-2172 to schedule your one-on-one demo with a Rapid Learning Specialist.