A difficult question to answer is how effective is your Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC)? This question could arise during downsizing or after a terrible accident, but how do you respond? “Our effectiveness is at a 7”?
Be A Better Supervisor
Part of being a Better Supervisor is understanding what makes a JHSC effective not only to answer that question, but to make the workplace safer. Below are the questions you can easily answer to determine how effective your JHSC is.
Are members seen as police or guiders?
It can be very difficult for a JHSC if its members are regarded as safety cops who force workers to take specific actions. This can foster feelings of resentment and cause members to be alienated from the greater workforce. Members shouldn’t be acting like police either, it is not their job to ensure safety – that’s your job. Rather, members should guide the workforce on safer behavior and educate others on unsafe habits and hazards, not dictate what they should do.
Is there communication between the JHSC and workers?
Can workers bring up concerns to the JHSC? Do they? This may run in part with the previous paragraph, but if workers can’t or don’t communicate with the JHSC, you are missing out on real-time, important information about the workplace. Workers are always the first to see workplace conditions and are the best source of safety concerns and hazards. If they aren’t talking to your JHSC, try to talk to them and engage in their ideas around safety at work. You just might learn something that saves someone’s life.
Are committee solutions implemented?
Committee solutions should be designed with safety in mind and an aim to save lives. If the JHSC solutions are not being implemented, it is usually due to one of two reasons: the solutions are inadequate, or management is ignoring them. If the solutions are inadequate, then you may want to look at training the JHSC members on safety and how to think critically about issues or replace members if needed. If management is ignoring the solutions, have a discussion with management and discuss the cost benefits of a safe workplace. Often, upfront costs make people turn their heads away, no matter the long-term savings, so it is a beneficial strategy to lead with the long-term return in the solutions and costs avoided (like those of a lawsuit), before discussing upfront costs.
Does the committee provide solutions or steps toward a solution for every issue?
In truth, some issues are too complex or abstract to provide a solution at one meeting. Preventing workplace harassment from escalating or eliminating heat stress hazards are both examples of issues which don’t have one simple solution. Nonetheless, a JHSC needs to do their best to make the workplace safer. If a matter doesn’t have an immediate solution, steps to improve safety should be recommended. There is no excuse for a safety issue to go unresolved if something as simple as “provide awareness training for now” can be suggested.
Are roles clearly established within the committee?
An effective group is one that is led by a determined leader.
There are two common issues that impede progress within groups that could be apparent in your JHSC:
- Too many people have titles and authority;
- Too few people have titles and authority.
The first issue is an organization overload; everyone has four people to report to and collect reports from. So much time is spent on organizational management and finding out what others are doing that no actual work gets done.
Conversely, in the second issue the authority is too flat; a more recent trend seen in tech companies. Everyone is friends and no one really leads, or everyone tries to lead, and time is wasted on getting the meeting going or organizing topics to discuss.
The solution to both issues is a mixture: there needs to be clearly defined roles to lead with determination, and very few people should be managing others. This way, time is freed up from overmanaging and undermanaging so that everyone can think about safety and engage in new ideas during meetings.
Whether you are on the JHSC or not, you should be aware of how the committee works, and most importantly if it’s working to keep you and your workers safe.