Successful Safety Committees

Successful Safety Committees
By Kevin Bartsch, Assistant Director Workers Compensation Pool Operations and Harry Cheff, Risk Management Associate

Whenever an organization wishes to generate support for its safety initiatives, it is very important to establish a culture of safety within the organization.  One key element in establishing that culture is to create an effective safety committee.  The Montana Safety Act requires that organizations with more than five employees have an established safety committee.  The number of safety committees varies from district to district. Some have a safety committee for each building and one district safety committee that oversees all the sites. Others have just one.

An effective safety committee can assist in creating and fostering a discernable culture of safe thinking and safe actions by including some firmly established elements and characteristics, which include but are not limited to the following:

  • An equal representation of all employee groups and is of sufficient size and number. Ideally, the committee is employee-run, with administration attending in a member role.
  • A strong endorsement, clear expectations, and full authority from the top level of a school district. (For an organization to be successful, it is imperative that the superintendents, principals, supervisors, etc., support and promote a safe work environment.)
  • Representatives from each school and each employee group, and should allow each school or work area to share information and ideas.
  • Regularly scheduled meetings focused on achieving specific goals. (The Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) recommends at least three (3) meetings per year; although the most effective months for those vary, most hold a meeting in late September/early October to prepare for winter. Another meeting is held in January or February to gauge winter concerns. April or May are also effective times to schedule a meeting for the purpose of addressing spring/summer safety concerns.)
  • A formal review of any “near miss” or reports of accidents, with suggestions for solutions and corrective actions.
  • A formal review of any observations of potentially unsafe working situations or procedures, especially those raised by employees.
  • A periodic safety audit/walk-around to identify unsafe conditions and/or unsafe actions.
  • A process focused on employee safety awareness and Safety Training (MSGIA Safe Schools is an excellent resource for this area).
  • A detailed document record of meetings, topics, attendees, and meeting minutes (MSGIA has designed templates for district use).

Clearly establishing goals, delegating responsibilities, and consistently communicating the need for sustained effort and individual accountability represent crucial components of a culture of safety. And when a culture of safety is created and reinforced regularly, it becomes a part of the fabric of an organization. 

As always, your MSGIA staff remains committed and available to assist your organization with your safety committee and other safety needs. Be safe! Return to newsletter