Developing safety policies and procedures is an important part of reducing the risk of injuries and deaths in the workplace. Organizations use different models for developing a comprehensive manual of safety policies and procedures. Creating a joint workplace safety and health committee is one way to ensure that employees from all departments work together to develop a comprehensive safety program.
Safety policies and procedures outline exactly how employees maintain a safe workplace. Policies spell out in general terms how safety will be achieved in each area of the organization. Procedures outline specifically how employees and managers will use a standard approach to preventing injuries in the workplace.
The Safety Committee
A joint safety and health committee can provide a centralized approach to developing the right safety policies and procedures for the entire organization. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), joint committees can identify hazardous conditions, conduct facility inspections each month, investigate and document injuries and accidents, and examine previous accidents to analyze risk factors. (See References 1)
Learning From the Past
The workplace safety and health committee can learn much valuable information by examining the current policies to see if they are preventing injuries to employees. Comparing existing safety policies and procedures to injury records is the most direct way to identify new policies and procedures that are required. Some policies and procedures that already exist must also be improved to provide better injury prevention.
According to OSHA, the joint safety and health committee can also plan training and education programs for workers and managers in all positions of the organization. The committee must ensure that training programs are provided to meet the specific needs of workers and departments of workers. Some employees will need only a simple training program such as how to lift safely to prevent back injuries. Other employees working with hazardous equipment or conditions will require more specialized training.
Two-way communication is important for the safety committee. According to OSHAcademy, "Employees see the safety committee as a communications conduit to management. When an employee informs or makes a suggestion to the safety committee representative, he or she expects to get some sort of feedback soon thereafter. They want to see action." (See References 2)
The safety committee needs to act on input from all managers and staff by making recommendations for improved safety protocols. The committee must employ a systematic method for delivering its recommendations back to the workforce, including following up with individuals. Some ways that the safety committees can communicate safety policy and procedures include general company meetings; department-specific meetings; and electronic communications (such as email, PowerPoint presentations, web discussion boards, PDF handouts and e-learning independent training tools).