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2nd February 2016

Setting up a safety committee

If you’re thinking of starting up a regular safety committee meeting, there’s updated guidance from the HSE to help get you started.

Revised

In December 2015 the HSE amended and republished its guidance involving your workforce in health and safety. It includes minor amendments so that cross reference to legislation is up to date. All employers are required to consult with their employees on matters of health and safety, and the focus of this document is to provide practical ideas on how to comply with the legal requirements.

When to use it

Use this guide if you are medium or large company or a smaller one whose workforce is spread across a large geographical area. These types of business find it harder to consult directly with all staff due to the number of personnel or logistical difficulties. Small businesses with good day-to-day contact between management and staff usually need much less formal arrangements.

This guidance covers what to consult about, how often the appointment and training of staff representatives, safety committees, inspections, accident investigations, etc.

Meetings

There’s only one circumstance in which you must have a health and safety committee and that’s if you have received a request in writing from two or more union-appointed health and safety representatives. Although it’s not that common for businesses to find themselves in this category. Many choose to set up committee as a means of fulfilling their legal obligations.

 

Membership of the committee should include:

  • Management representatives who are able to consider information tabled and make decisions.
  • Employee representatives who are either union appointed or elected by their colleagues.
  • Co-opted individuals who offer specific expertise, such as your health and safety advisor; and
  • Representatives of others in the workforce, such as contractors.

 

When deciding the makeup of the committee, ensure you maintain a balance so that there is good representation of different parts of the workforce.

 

Tip 1. As a first priority, agree a set of principles of operations, i.e. a constitution, covering the purpose and objectives, membership and meeting arrangements. It is also good practice to have a standing agenda so that all statutory requirements are covered.

Tip 2. A safety committee can be easily de-railed if it isn’t given sufficient priority. Ensure that members don’t become disillusioned by holding meetings on schedule, maintaining control, progressing actions, etc.

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