Leadership Development

Safety Committee 101

BadgerPosted by Stephen Badger, CSP, OHST

If establishing a safety committee at your place of business sounds appealing, there are few questions that you must ask yourself before embarking on this adventure.

  • What would be the purpose of a safety committee? A clear mission must be identified.  An organization must decide if the mandate will be to lower injury numbers or will it be proactive in identifying workplace hazards?  Perhaps the purpose would be to prevent injuries to fellow employees and improve morale throughout the entire company.  Another option may be to have the members be involved with hazard correction.  A successful committee can do all of these things, but it must be effectively directed.  It’s critical that meetings do not simply become “complaint” sessions that only bring down morale.
  • Who should be a part of the safety committee? An organization must decide if management should be a part of the committee or will employees feel too intimidated by management to offer any suggestions that might cost money?  Many organizations chose to have a person from each business unit be a part of the committee to be sure that everyone’s interests are represented. The most important concern is that the individuals on the team be volunteers who have energy to bring to the committee. 
  • How often would the committee meet? The answer to this will vary greatly from company to company depending upon industry, size, safety program, and injury history.  While some organizations should have monthly meetings others may have to meet more frequently and others might require only quarterly dates.  Ensure the meetings are convenient for all participants, even for those that work other shifts or at secondary locations. No matter what the interval of the meetings, it should have an agenda and be started promptly. Waiting for people to show up just encourages “late comers”.
  • Where should the committee meet? Meetings should be held away from noisy areas and production floors to prevent distractions. The meeting room should be of an adequate size to contain all the participants comfortably and have audio/visual capabilities. Telephones should be silenced to prevent unwanted interruptions. Computers should only be allowed if integral to the meeting and minutes from each meeting should be kept and disseminated organization wide. 
  • How are we going to measure the success of the safety committee? It is important to set goals for the committee and compare reality to those goals. Using the SMART Goal formula will improve the odds of success.  A safety committee should be able to measure its successes and failures to ensure that the committee doesn’t lose focus and purpose. Being able to show that the group has made a difference will go a long way in keeping the support of upper management.

For more information regarding safety committees, check out the OSHA website.  You’ll find a wealth of information related to safety committee formation, expectations, training guides, PowerPoint presentations, and other resources. 

For more on the benefits and pitfalls of safety committees MEMIC customers can also access the MEMIC Safety Director resources and attend the upcoming Safety Committee webinar on January 26, 2017.

Safety Leadership: Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk

Make Havel 2013 Posted by Mike Havel

Take a moment to think about the people who have influenced you: Your parents, friends, or the sports teams that you follow. These are the people that you have looked to for leadership at one point or another in your life and as a result, their actions and opinions have influenced the way you think and act.

As a supervisor or a member of your company’s safety committee, you are in a leadership position; you are a safety leader.  What you do has a tremendous influence on those around you with regards to their attitudes toward safety.  It is those actions that can set the tone for how safely your organization operates, in essence, its safety culture.

Safety culture boils down to “what your fellow employees do when no one is watching”. Your company has a safety culture…it may be positive or it may be negative. What you say and the actions you take can have an influence on that safety culture, either positive or negative.

Think about the last time you had a discussion with an associate with regards to safety. Would you rate your attitudes and behavior as positive? How do you think the associate was influenced?

A positive attitude is critical when we interact with our co-workers.  Motivating employees to make the right decisions will reduce the likelihood of an injury and make it clear that you care about them.    For example:  An employee is standing on a chair with wheels.  Which do you think would have a more positive influence?   

(1) ‘Hey, don’t stand on that chair… go get a ladder’

(2) ‘Hey, Joe, standing on that chair could get you hurt.  Let’s go find a proper stool or ladder.”

Safety leadership is also the positive reinforcement that you provide when you see an employee performing a task safely. Positive reinforcement plays an important part in influencing employees to work safely when you aren’t there.  A simple “good job” or even “thanks for working safely” when you witness safe behavior goes a long way to creating a positive safety culture. Employees will remember those positive interactions when faced with situations where they could make a good or bad choice. New hire employees are particularly susceptible.  Think about  a first impression when you joined your company. Do you still have that impression? Those first impressions tend to stick with you, so communicating positively about safety and the importance of working safely will have a lasting impression on those new hire employees.

The phrase “Actions speak louder than words” holds true for how you, as a safety leader, perform your job and those tasks within your job. As a safety leader, you must be conscious that your actions, day in, day out, are watched by your co-workers, and those actions must reflect how to perform work safely.  In the previous example of Joe on the chair… was Joe up there because the day before he saw you standing the very same chair? Be confident you understand your organization’s safety policies.  If you are unsure, simply ask your safety representative.  Making assumptions or ignoring policies can lead to injury and sets a poor example to others.  A positive safety culture encourages questions and open communication.

Safety isn’t always the easiest or fastest path, but it allows you to perform your job and move on to the next task with a minimum risk of injury.  All businesses must balance productivity, quality, and safety.  A positive culture does just that, and your words and actions are critical to success.

Check out the MEMIC Safety Director for more information regarding the development of your safety culture. 


A New Year's Resolution we can all benefit from... Improve your Safety Program

EricGrant Posted by Eric Grant

As we begin 2013, if you are like most people, you have probably made a New Year’s Resolution.   Consider the same for your business and more specifically, your injury prevention program.

Consider these ideas or brainstorm with your safety committee and/or leadership team:

  • Focus on company specific exposures - Work with your agent to review injury claims and loss runs.   Refer to your OSHA 300 log to determine areas of opportunity.
  • Develop a formal safety training agenda - OSHA compliance is a start but should not be the finish. Remember 15% of claims are associated with unsafe conditions, but 85% are caused by unsafe behaviors.
  • Conduct quality Event Investigations - Determine root cause and take corrective actions. Remember, look for the Facts, not Fault and operational involvement is key to an effective program. (Visit the MEMIC Safety Director for program materials)
  • Utilize your resources - Internal (supervisors/experienced workers, safety committee, leadership, HR) and external (MEMIC loss control, state consultation services, private consultants, your insurance agency). 
  • Recognize and reward positive behaviors - Consider implementing a formal program that reinforces positive actions taken by employees at all levels.
  • Pre-plan activities with a focus on safety & injury prevention - Have you considered implementing a Job Hazard Analysis Program? This may be the year to get it done!
  • Provide leadership accountability training - Integrate safety with business goals.  Management commitment is one of the foundations of a comprehensive health and safety program.
  • Explore ways to increase employee involvement - Examples include safety committees, routine self-inspections, participation in training agendas, and company sponsored activities/programs.
  • Implement a formal routine self-inspection program - What does OSHA want from businesses? Identify hazards and correct them! Get out there and inspect your workplace and implement follow up corrective actions. 

Reduce injury claim frequency and severity by implementing these nine objectives and communicating them as part of a formal SMART Goal.  To learn more about SMART goals, check out a 2008 Smart Goal posting from the Safety Net, or search online, keyword- SMART Goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely).

Have a Happy, and SAFE, New Year!

Is Your Business Ready?

Darnley Dave Posted by David Darnley

Hurricanes, floods, wind damage, heat waves, shootings, and domestic terrorism – all events that have happened this year. Is your business ready?

MEMIC recently archived an August webinar entitled Is Your Business Ready?, which is designed to help our clients prepare, write, test and improve their own “all hazards” emergency response and business continuity plans.  This webinar is available to policy holders at MEMIC’s Safety Director.

The federal government provides excellent resources on the website, “Ready.gov”.  You can access templates to prepare a Risk Assessment, Business Impact Analysis Worksheet, Business Continuity Resource Requirement Worksheet, Business Continuity Plan Worksheet, Emergency Response Resource Requirements Worksheet, and Emergency Response Plan

Additional information on emergency planning and protecting people from natural and human-caused disasters can be found at other sites on the web including these:

OSHA’s Flood Preparedness and Response

FBI Workplace Violence Response

Federal Emergency Management Agency


Transportation Leads the Way

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

In 2010, 4690 U.S. workers died while on the job.  Although this represents a 3% increase from 2009, both years continue an overall downward trend in workplace deaths.  For example, in 1994 there were 6632 workers killed.  This trend is good news for all of us, yet over 13 people still die each day at work.   

Take a look at the pie chart below to see the manner in which fatal work injuries occurred.  With this knowledge you may be able to address specific issues at your workplace in order to mitigate the hazards.  It’s pretty easy to see what is killing most people:  40% of fatalities were transportation incidents.      
Transportation Graph
Source:  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2012

Ask yourself if your employees drive either company cars, vans, trucks, heavy machinery, or their own personal vehicles during the course of their jobs.  If the answer is “yes” then a fleet plan should be developed to ensure the safe operation and condition of all vehicles.  There are many elements to a comprehensive fleet plan and each organization’s would differ slightly.  However, they should all include policies regarding driver’s license checks, vehicle inspections, maintenance programs, traffic law responsibilities, and driver safety training and education. 

Check out the Safety Director Resource Library at MEMIC.com for fleet plan tools and resources.  Get started today and ensure all employees Arrive Alive each and every day.       


Does Your Business Have An Effective Injury Management System?

Webb Hartley Posted by Hartley Webb

Operating a business is never easy, but is especially challenging in a difficult economy.  This should lead management to identify cost control methods.  Workplace injuries are extremely expensive when both the direct and indirect costs are considered.  An injury management system can help limit these costs while assisting injured employees return to the workforce.   I’ve worked as a MEMIC safety management consultant since 1993, and I still see businesses that do not have effective injury management systems. 

An effective Injury Management System consists of the following:

  1. Knowledge of loss experience (injury cause, injury type, body part).
  2. Identify and meet with a local preferred medical provider who can treat occupational injuries and illnesses; establish a working relationship with a shared return-to-work philosophy.
  3. Detailed job descriptions (that include physical tasks required) that can be used to communicate job requirements to the medical provider.
  4. A written plan that identifies the employer and employee responsibilities regarding injury reporting, claim filing, preferred medical provider use, return-to-work guidelines, and communication with injured employees during treatment and restricted duty. 
  5. Identify alternate duty job activities available in the event an injury occurs.
  6. Documented injury management system training to include specific employee responsibilities.

OSHA has developed a “$afety Pays Program” that includes an injury cost estimator.  This tool can provide convincing evidence of the importance of an effective Injury Management System. 

Got Occupational Safety and Health Specialists?

Dodge John Posted by John Dodge

Where is the new generation of Occupational Safety and Health Specialists? Employers may be asking this question soon.

A report from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) informs us that demand for safety, health and environmental professionals is strong.  A recent NIOSH study indicates that employers plan to hire at least 25,000 SH&E professionals over the next 5 years, and only about 12,000 new graduates are expected to be available. Clearly the rest will come from non-traditional students and people seeking a career change.

Let's find and mentor these people!  Please recommend the MEMIC Center for Workplace Safety at Central Maine Community College. CMCC's Occupational Health and Safety credit courses and workshops are waiting for aspiring safety professionals or current safety & health practitioners seeking to improve their skills. Please contact the MEMIC Center for Workplace Safety’s Bryan Wallace at 207.755.5282 or at [email protected].

Hang Up and Drive

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

On Tuesday December 13, 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended a nationwide ban on all portable electronic devices (PED’s) for all motorists.  The NTSB came to its recommendation after investigating a multi-vehicle crash in Gray Summit, MO that involved a driver who was texting. The crash, which occurred on Aug. 5, 2010, killed two people and injured 38 including children in two school buses.  The National Safety Council (NSC) made this recommendation many months ago and was quick to endorse this NTSB vote.

It is clear that drivers are frequently distracted by electronic devices.  Naturally this creates a safety concern not just for the distracted driver, but for everyone else on the road, in cross walks, and in construction work zones.  The NSC estimates 1.3 million crashes, or 23 percent of all crashes, involve distracted drivers using cell phones. “Quantifying crashes and fatalities involving cell phone use while driving is challenging due to several factors such as a driver’s unwillingness to admit the behavior and lack of witnesses. Additionally, cell phone use currently is not consistently captured on police reports. We are able to develop an estimate of crashes based on risk and exposure, but the problem could be much larger than we estimate,” says Janet Froetscher, NSC President and CEO. 

The links below offer the latest information concerning this topic.  If your employees drive as part of their work routine, then it is time to review your fleet plan and consider eliminating this risk.   

National Safety Council

National Transportation Safety Board Fact Sheet

Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?

If you lead safely, I’ll follow

Dodge John Posted by John Dodge

Last month I was speaking to a group of supervisors and middle managers about the role of the front-line supervisor in workplace safety. We discussed that in some organizations, workplace safety and health responsibilities are assigned to a safety committee or a safety coordinator. And in many cases, injury prevention efforts fall short due to the fact that safety committees and safety coordinators are limited in their authority and aren't always available to ensure safe work practices.

However, the front-line supervisor does have the necessary authority and availability to ensure safe work practices. Who better to evaluate work conditions, safe behaviors, and employee skill levels?

Unfortunately, some organizations do not assign safety related activities to their supervisors, or educate them on leadership skills - they are expected to already have these skills or to learn on the job. As a result, many supervisors rely on their technical skills rather than the all-important human and conceptual skills necessary to lead.

Technical skills-- knowing how to do a job--are critical for teaching and coaching employees while human skills such as honesty, communication, sincerity, motivation, respect, and ensuring safe work, are essential for effective leadership. Conceptual workplace skills such as organization, job preparation, and evaluating employee skill are equally essential.  Effective use of technical, human, and conceptual skills will help the supervisor foster a safe, high performance workplace.  

Want proof that you should work on your human skills? Ask your employees and fellow supervisors to name some traits of the best supervisor that they have ever worked for. Write them down and note how many fall into the human skills category-you may be surprised!

Want to know more about leadership in safety? Join MEMIC for a one hour webinar on January 19, 2011 at 11 a.m.

Does my company need a written safety and health program?

Dodge John 
Posted by John Dodge

This week a business owner asked me if he needed a formal safety program. His business employed 10 people and has been successful in preventing workplace injuries for several years. However, he felt some level of uncertainty about his informal safety and health efforts.

Following a brief discussion and a work site tour, it was evident that his organization had elements of a formal safety and health program: An organized workplace, well maintained tools and equipment, elimination of hazardous tasks, and availability of personal protective equipment.

I suspect that many business owners find themselves in a similar situation. They feel that they are doing enough to provide a safe workplace and if they have few injuries, why have a formal program?

I also suspect that some businesses owners feel as if their luck has changed- the informal safety efforts that have worked in the past are no longer working.

If you wonder why you need a formal safety and health program, start by asking these questions:

  1. How do my employees know that I expect them to work safely?
  2. How do I address unsafe work conditions before an accident or near miss?
  3. Does management understand that they are accountable for safe work conditions?
  4. How are employees trained to perform their job?
  5. Do my employees participate in the safety and health process?
  6. Am I compliant with regulatory safety and health requirements?

If you don’t have answers to these questions, a written safety and health policy will provide a definite course of action and a schedule of activities. There are various guidance documents available, but most will have these basic program elements:

  1. Management commitment and employee involvement
  2. Worksite analysis
  3. Hazard identification and control
  4. Employee training

To get started, I recommend MEMIC’s Seven Steps to a Safer Workplace guide. This document and other safety support materials are available on MEMIC’s Safety Director website.  You will quickly build a formal safety and health program and will eliminate any uncertainty about the effectiveness and consistency of your future safety efforts.