SAFETY COMMITTEES IN WORKPLACES

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FOR safety to work in a workplace, it takes teamwork. One way to encourage teamwork is by creating a safety committee. Make safety a way of life by having a Safety Committee in your workplace.

An effective committee can accomplish great results. Committees are formed to perform a specific task and, sometimes, for a specific period.

Using of committees has become very popular in our modern society. We see committees in churches, companies and at family level.

For instance, when a couple wants to get married, they form a wedding committee to help plan, organise and execute a wedding successfully. Similarly, a safety committee must be formed to help plan, organise and implement safety in the workplace.

The Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) Act of 2010 provides for the establishment of Safety Committees in Workplaces. (For the sake of convenience, OSH Act is referred to as Safety Act in this article). According to the Safety Act, employers with 10 or more employees are required to establish a Safety Committee.

The Safety Committee should consist of equal representation from both the employer and the employees. The Safety Act doesn’t give the maximum number of Safety Committee members because this depends on the size of the company.

However, the Safety Act gives the minimum number of Safety Committee members of two which makes sense since one represents the employer and the other represents the employees.

The Safety Act demands that the Safety Committee should be chaired by the employer or the senior most member of management on the committee.

Safety Committee members shouldn’t necessarily be safety officers. Even non-safety officers can sit on the Safety Committee. The Safety Act does not specify qualifications, training or experience in safety of committee members.

The Safety Act clearly stipulates five functions of the Safety Committee.

First the Safety Committee is responsible for promoting cooperation between the employer and employees in all safety matters. This is important because for workplace safety to be effective, both the employer and employees must work together. Cooperation between employer and workers is vital to guarantee success of safety in the workplace.

Second the Safety Committee is responsible for sharing safety information to all employees. Workers deserve adequate safety information for them to make informed decisions and work safely.

Third the Safety Committee is responsible for investigating and resolving any matters that may pose a risk to the safety and health of workers. Investigations should not just be conducted when an accident occurs but also even before an accident.

In safety terms, this is called Risk Assessment. All the workplace hazards and risks must be investigated proactively. Risk assessment is the backbone of workplace safety.

Fourth the Safety Committee is responsible for reviewing the control measures to ensure safety in the workplace. Reviewing the safety control measures in place is important to ensure that they are working effectively and efficiently.

Fifthly the Safety Committee is responsible for the formulating, reviewing and circulating the safety standards, rules and procedures to all employees.

These are the five duties of the Safety Committee which in most large companies are performed by the Company Safety Department.

Having a Safety Committee in a workplace gives benefits to both the employer and employees. I know of companies who have established Safety Committees and their safety standards are outstanding.

Talking from experience, I once worked for a large manufacturing company where we had Safety Committees though we didn’t call them that.

We used to meet according to departments on a monthly basis. Being part of these Safety Committees was part of our normal duties. None of us received an allowance for being part of the Safety Committee. The safety meetings were chaired by the Head of Department.

The Safety Officers used to rotate in attending these safety meetings from department to department. These safety officers provided expert guidance and relayed to relevant authorities all the safety problems which couldn’t be resolved at department level.

It was from these Departmental Safety Committees that I learnt a lot about safety and developed interest in safety.  Except for the Safety Officer, the rest of us had no academic qualification in safety. But the company outsourced consultants to provide safety training to us.

We participated in the Safety Committees effectively because we spoke from a practical point of view.  We were familiar with our department with all its equipment, materials and processes.

I have shared my experience to encourage you employers that creating a Safety Committee in your workplace shouldn’t be complicated.  Create one. If you are not sure where to start from, call or email me. I’ll be glad to assist you.

Establishment of a Safety Committee is law. The law requires you as an employer to have a Safety Committee in your workplace if you have 10 or more employees.

Workplace safety is for your own good as an employer and for the good of all your workers. Until next week, stay safe. Zambia needs you.

*The author is the CEO of SafetyFocus, a leading safety company in Zambia. For your daily safety tips, like our Facebook page on www.facbook.com/safetyfocussuppliers.

For your comments, contact the author on cell +260 955 179267 or email: k.mark@safetyfocussuppliers.com

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