Depending on the specific workplace, some managers may face an uphill battle in achieving active employee participation in safety committees. Pressure to increase production, a temporary or short-term work force and overall lack of motivation can contribute to the difficulties of creating a productive safety committee at work.
In an attempt to evade these challenges, some managers might simply designate a worker as a safety committee member or co-chair to maintain the presence of a safety committee. Thrusting an unsuspecting employee into this position, however, is an ill-advised move. Even worse is when the site safety coordinator or member of management signs off as an employee committee representative, because this is a position a member of the work force should hold.
Give Workers a Voice
It is workers themselves who need to speak up about safety issues as part of the committee. The concept of workers possessing the ability to form committees to voice their concerns to upper management is ingrained in the ideology of a just and equal society. Taking that privilege away from the employees can create a culture of mistrust, which means management risks losing the respect of the work force. Furthermore, members of management must not compromise their professional principles by utilizing the committee body as a vehicle to advance personal mandates or impose their own version of health and safety on the work force or employer.
Safe, professionally minded workers result in safe and productive worksites – this has been proven time and time again. If management attempts to step in and silence the voice of the workers, they may only endanger the site, lose the respect of the work force and slide down a dangerous slope from which they may never fully return.
So give workers a voice. Create a working environment where employees feel free to speak up, communicate their concerns and suggest safety improvements. Help them understand the role they play in keeping not only themselves, but also their fellow coworkers, safe and productive.
Colin Korney is currently an HSE coordinator for Graham Construction based out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. He has been involved in the safety field for the last 5 years and holds a professional gold seal in construction safety.