In this article we look at the role of the health and safety committee and answer some of the questions we are frequently asked on the topic.
What does a Health and Safety Committee do?
Health and safety committees give a structured approach to consultation. They provide a forum where management and employees can work together to resolve any health and safety issues.
For employees who do not belong to a trade union, establishing a health and safety committee is not a legal requirement. Employees in a trade union can insist a committee is set up through two or more of their health and safety representatives issuing a written request.
Why should I consult with my employees?
Consulting with your employees on health and safety is an effective way to motivate employees to work more safely. Employees that have a voice are more likely to follow safe systems of work and operate in a safe manner. They also often encourage other employees to do the same.
It also encourages them to report situations they feel uncomfortable with; a valuable tool in accident prevention. In fact HSE studies show that workplaces where employees play an active part in health and safety management, have lower accident rates.
My employees do have trade union health and safety representatives and they have requested that I set up a committee. How quickly do I need to do this?
Employers have three months to set up a committee once two or more requests in writing have been submitted.
My employees do not have a trade union. Does the health and safety committee work in the same way?
There is no legal obligation to set a committee up in the same way, however they are a great way of communicating with staff. If you decide to set one up, using the following guidelines will make the process more structured.
Who should be on the committee?
In addition to union representatives, attendees should represent a cross section of employees. It is also beneficial to have a senior manager there as well. Committee members can either be voted in by employees or be volunteers.
How will it work?
In setting up a committee it is beneficial to agree in advance with your safety representatives how it is going to work. You will need to decide the principles of how it will work best, who the members will be and define meeting schedules and a broad agenda. You’ll also need to consider the purpose and remit of the committee decision, the process around making and dealing with disagreements and the resources required by representatives. Finally, you will have to identify how the results of the meetings will be communicated to employees.
The committee should aim to discuss health and safety matters in a constructive, non-aggressive manner and in return the company should take an open minded, non-defensive approach in responding to the opinions and suggestions raised.
What items should be on the agenda for meetings?
The agenda should include items such as statistics on accident records, ill health, sickness absence; accident investigations and subsequent action; inspections of the workplace; risk assessments; health and safety training; emergency procedures and any changes in the workplace affecting the health, safety and welfare of employees
How are actions decided upon?
The committee should discuss whether action is needed, agree recommended actions and record discussions within the meeting minutes. This needs to be accessible to the whole workforce. They will also need to follow up the actions and review them at a later date.
How do actions get carried out?
Actions agreed should be delegated to a named individual and given a timescale for completion. At the start of the next meeting, these actions are then reviewed. Senior management should endeavour to complete actions within the agreed timescale to demonstrate the company’s commitment to employee health and safety.
How frequently should we have meetings?
This will depend upon several factors and there is no right answer. Considerations include: volume of business, the size and spread of the workforce, the type of work done in the workplace and their associated risks. There may also be industry specific factors. A three monthly interval is often used as this coincides with trade union representative three monthly workplace inspections.
Envesca offer both Level 3 and 4 Awards in Health and Safety in the Workplace courses, as well as IOSH Managing Safely. All these courses include details on implementing a health and safety management system. To find out more about these courses simply click on the links below: