Many people, including the Nonprofit Risk Management staff, believe that workplace safety must be everyone’s concern and that the collective “everyone” needs a leader to consistently address and promote safe practices in the workplace. In most small to mid-size entities a single person serves this purpose. The role of “workplace safety coordinator” can be incorporated into someone’s job description—it does not have to be a separate position. Various personnel must be able to perform specific steps to identify and control hazards. In larger organizations, a safety director, safety manager or safety officer, sometimes under the leadership of a professional risk manager, is in charge of the workplace safety program and appoints a workplace safety committee to assist in implementing the workplace safety program.
Membership in the workplace safety committee is determined by the nature of the entity’s operations. Usually all supervisors (department heads or program managers) serve on the committee. Other employees and special advisors—an insurance professional, a firefighter, or a police officer—may be invited to attend.
The committee is chaired by the workplace safety coordinator. The chair leads the committee, schedules monthly safety meetings, serves as the contact with outside agencies on safety matters, and retains all safety-related documents. The chair is able to function best with direct access to the chief elected official or administrator of the organization.
Those safety programs that are required by law (applicable OSHA requirements, fire codes, and state departments of health) or required by the safety committee in response to high accident frequency or potential at the nonprofit.
Specific safety programs include:
Workplace safety programs should be included in the entity’s safety manual. Individual components, such as floor-by-floor fire-evacuation plans, should be posted. The programs should be reviewed and updated at least annually to ensure quality, effectiveness and compliance with all applicable codes.
Meetings should be documented and kept on file for at least three years for reference. Duties of the safety committee vary, depending on the entity’s size and the nature and severity of the location’s hazards. To keep meetings on target and timely, distribute an agenda to committee members before each meeting. Record and file minutes of each meeting. Try to keep the meeting length to one hour.
The safety committee’s monthly meeting agenda could include:
Monthly workplace safety inspections and documentation help monitor adherence to workplace safety programs. A member of the safety committee should lead the inspection. Department representatives should participate in the inspection of their departments. Focus inspections on physical hazards and unsafe acts or operations. Start with areas or operations that show up as causes of accidents/incidents in previous monthly safety inspections and in the quarterly loss analysis. Include fire hazards, security and other life-threatening areas. Correct any unsafe acts or conditions. Report the inspection results at the safety committee meeting. Create a “To Do” list of the committee’s recommendations and assign people to correct them.
Before the committee can make the workplace safer, it needs to identify accident trends and causes making it unsafe. This is the role of the quarterly loss analysis report, which goes into more detail than the monthly loss analysis that is part of the safety meeting. The committee should follow-up on and correct any cause or trend identified.
In-service training sessions increase safety and health awareness among staff, educate them about changes in procedure, and address specific areas of concern identified by the safety inspection. An annual schedule should be developed to ensure all content is covered. Additional in-services can be provided as necessary, prompted by such factors as high frequency of accidents, turnover of employees, or expansion or reduction of staff. Document all training and attendance and keep it on file. In addition, each employee’s personal file should have a cumulative record of the in-service meetings attended.
The safety committee should produce a report at the end of each calendar year that summarizes its action. The reports serve as guideposts for future committee members. Submit the report to the chief elected official, administrator or risk manager for review and comment. Include:
Some nonprofits convene a separate risk management/safety committee for a special event, such as a fund-raising benefit, staff planning retreat or health fair. The committee should be led by an individual who has overall responsibility and is authorized to take action if an emergency arises. The “safety czar” and committee should be involved in all facets of event planning and coordination. Sometimes the special event safety committee is a subcommittee of the overall safety committee, other times it is a separate committee headed by a member of the overall safety committee. The work of this committee should be summarized in a report to the whole and included in the overall safety committee’s records.
Risk Management: A Technical Assistance Brief, A Guide to Risk Management, prepared by The Loss Control Department, The Hartford, © 2000 by American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.