A safety committee is a group formed within an organization that functions to serve as an advocate for workplace health and safety.
Through the formation of a safety committee, the commitment to safety becomes a shared responsibility between management and employees.
Any company can benefit from having a safety committee, but not all organizations are required to have one. Federal OSHA does not have a safety committee requirement, but many states have stricter occupational safety standards that may require a workplace safety committee.
Check your OSHA State Plan regulations for details on specific safety committee requirements. States that have a safety committee requirement may indicate that a committee is mandatory:
- for most or all organizations, or
- only for high-risk industries, or
- based on the number of employees, or
- if requested by an employee.
Organizations with State Plan requirements for a safety committee should follow those specific rules first and use the information provided in this article as a supplement.
Establishing and supporting a safety committee is a great way for management to demonstrate the organization’s commitment to worker health and safety.
An engaged and effective safety committee can:
- Identify innovative and cost-effective safety and health solutions
- Create a safer work environment and lower injury rates
- Provide workers a sense of empowerment when it comes to the safety program
- Ensure qualified personnel review new and existing safety programs and procedures
- Promote cooperation between employees and management to solve safety-related issues
Responsibilities will vary greatly depending on the needs and resources of the organization, but safety committees may consider efforts such as:
- Identifying safety concerns and offering suggestions for improvement
- Establishing and managing a hazard reporting process
- Developing a safety inspection process
- Evaluating and improving the organization’s health and safety program
- Reviewing incident reports and conducting incident investigations
- Measuring leading indicators to improve a specific part of the safety program
- Acting as a point of contact for employees to report safety concerns
The size of the safety committee can vary depending on the size and the needs of the organization. If the State Plan or company policies don’t already dictate committee member requirements, here is some guidance to consider when forming a new safety committee.
Ideally, a safety committee has a representative cross-section of employees and managers from all departments and levels of the company. The goal is to create a group that represents all employees.
Safety committee members should include employee-elected members along with management-appointed members, but the majority of members should not be employer selected. Safety committee members that are not appointed by management may be elected by employees or may volunteer for the role.
A safety committee of 3 to 15 people is typically recommended. The size of the committee should not be so large that it’s difficult to coordinate. If needed, subcommittees can be created.
Members of the safety committee should be rotated regularly, perhaps every 6 months to 2 years. The appointment process, and term limit rules should be written into the committee policies.
Officers may be appointed or elected, and at minimum there should be a chairperson that leads each meeting and someone else who documents the meeting.
Create a written agenda to ensure each meeting runs smoothly. Send a copy of the agenda out to all committee members before each meeting.
The agenda for each meeting will vary, but common items that may be reviewed or discussed include:
- Minutes from the last meeting
- Status of tasks assigned at the last meeting
- Current incident investigations
- Reports of safety concerns submitted by workers
- Recent safety inspections
- New incident reports
- A top-priority safety concern
- Employee safety training
- The organization’s health and safety program
- Current action items and task assignments
After each safety committee meeting, a summary can be prepared and distributed company-wide. It’s important to keep management and employees up-to-date on safety committee priorities and safety program improvements.
Safety committees meet on a regular basis that depends on many factors which may include State Plan requirements, the size of the organization, types of workplace hazards, resources available, or committee responsibilities. Typically, safety committees will meet monthly or quarterly.
Safety committee meetings should be held during work hours and can be conducted in-person, virtually, or on a conference call. Schedule meetings for no longer than one hour. This will keep the agenda on track and limit the amount of time employees spend away from their other job duties.
Maintain all safety committee documentation including bylaws, procedures, policies, goals, committee members, attendance records, meeting minutes, investigations, and follow-up actions.
Maintain a record of safety committee meeting minutes, including attendance records, for at least one year, but ideally for several years.
State Plans or company policies may dictate a recordkeeping requirement, so first check if there is documentation rule already in place that must be followed.