Every workplace should hold regular health and safety meetings to ensure that employees, clients, and visitors are protected from potential hazards or unsafe practices within the workplace. Here are eight key points to discuss at your next meeting.
Occupational health and safety is something that every workplace needs to take seriously. Under Australian law, the responsibility for occupational health and safety at a workplace rests with the employer. However, in many workplaces, health and safety committees are established to ensure that there is regular and formal discussion in the workplace about health and safety issues.
What are the responsibilities of a Health and Safety Committee and what’s appropriate to discuss at a workplace health and safety meeting?
Workplace health and safety committees
Health and safety committees are a way for employers and employees to work together to ensure a continued safe working environment for everyone. They provide a mechanism in the workplace to address health and safety issues and to develop and implement health and safety processes. Generally, health and safety committees should meet every three months and should be treated as a formal committee with a chairperson, taking minutes, issuing an agenda, and the requirement for a quorum before the meeting can proceed.
Workplace health and safety committees must be established by a business within three months of being requested to set up a committee by a health and safety representative or if required under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Here are eight points to discuss at your next workplace health and safety meeting.
1) Setting parameters for the committee
If this is the first meeting of a new Health and Safety Committee, then you’ll need to set parameters for the committee. It’s important to identify what is in and out of scope for the committee, agree on the responsibilities of individual committee members, and discuss if the committee is in favour of establishing sub-committees when issues need to be examined in more depth than can be covered in a committee meeting.
2) Setting administration guidelines
Successful committees that work constructively within a business require solid administration guidelines so that there are no grey areas, and everything related to the committee is documented. Meetings should always be run by a chairperson (ideally selected by members of the committee). One person should take responsibility for issuing an agenda in advance of every meeting and for taking and distributing the minutes. Decide on the number of committee members that will constitute a quorum so that everyone is clear that a committee meeting can go ahead with a certain number of apologies. Setting these administration guidelines in place at the beginning will greatly reduce ambiguity and administration in the long-run and lead to a more effective and productive committee.
3) Establishing conflict resolution procedures
Not everyone is going to agree all the time. If there are disagreements over the implementation of a safety process, for example, it’s important that the conflict resolution procedures have been agreed in advance so that the procedure being followed doesn’t become an additional source of conflict or friction.
So, with the guidelines for the committee in place, what items should be on the agenda?
4) Any current health and safety issues within the workplace
First on the agenda should be any current health and safety issues within the workplace. This agenda item can deal with any unresolved issues that may have carried over from the previous meeting or with new issues that have arisen. The next steps that need to be taken to address these issues should be agreed at the meeting so they can be minuted and actioned by the appropriate committee member.
If the issues are ongoing, then a program should be implemented to manage these issues in accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
5) Update on the status of health and safety programs in place to address existing issues
Where there are already programs in place to address existing health and safety issues, these should be revisited at regular intervals with progress reports from the appropriate committee member to ensure that things are on track and if they aren’t, that the programs can be adjusted and realigned.
6) Analysing data
It’s good to discuss and analyse any new data that’s come to hand since the last meeting. That could be the number of days in the workplace since there’s been a safety incident, or it could be the latest report on hazards in the workplace. Working with current information is very important.
7) Workers’ compensation and workers returning to work
Depending on the size and complexity of your business, it could be appropriate to discuss workers’ compensation and the progress of any workers who are on a return-to-work program.
8) Health and safety audit
Another thing that’s good to discuss at a workplace health and safety meeting is conducting a health and safety audit. All too often we assume that everything that has been in place before is working well, but silence isn’t always golden. Sometimes, the fact that we aren’t hearing anything about a particular issue just means that no one’s paying attention to that issue.
Fire safety audit
Organise a regular audit of your fire safety procedures and your fire safety equipment. Is your evacuation procedure still appropriate? Is the designated meeting spot still the best place to meet in the event of an emergency? Are a briefing on fire safety and evacuation procedures part of the onboarding for new staff? These as just some of the topics that you should consider as part of a fire safety audit.
Electrical safety audit
It’s also advisable to conduct regular audits of your electrical safety and the level of electrical risk in your business. When was the wiring last checked? Is there a regular test and tag routine in place? When were the safety switches last checked?
Jim’s Test & Tag (incorporating Jim’s Fire Safety) conducts fire safety and electrical safety audits for businesses and can help you with all your electrical safety and fire safety requirements. They conduct audits on site and can also conduct safety testing and advise on additional safety equipment that you may require. Phone 13 15 46 for more information or to arrange a quote.
Disclaimer: This advice is general in nature and does not take into consideration the individual circumstances of a business. Consult the workplace safety authority in your state for definitive guidelines on occupational health and safety.