Advice for safety representatives and safety committee members

George’s Safety Reflections-Number 5

Another article by late legendary Safety Guru, George Robotham. You can find more of his work at here: SAFETY REFLECTIONS

George’s down to earth advice to safety representatives and safety committee members

I have been working in OHS for nearly 4 decades and in that time have been stuffed around by OHS professionals, employers, employees, unions, government, employer associations and educators. I have developed a fair bit of cynicism about how fair dinkum the various parties are about safety.

At the risk of being crucified, castrated and thrown out of the safety club I have to say I have a philosophical objection to the need for safety representatives and safety committees. I believe if organisations have their involvement and communications mechanisms working properly there is no real need for these safety mechanisms. Of course I realise this ideal situation rarely exists.

From my study in management of organisational change I have adopted the motto “When initiating change-Remember-People support what they create” Widespread communication, involvement and participation is essential for effective health, safety & environment change.

I have to tell you a number of the so-called OHS professionals I have worked with would not have the competency to make the lamingtons for the school fete.

The idea that safety is the number one priority of a company is crap and anyone who tells you this is playing with himself, making money is the prime reason companies exist.

Entering on the OHS battlefield is not for the faint-hearted and is not easy. You have to present well thought out and researched arguments and accept you will often get an unreasonable response. Some of the people you end up dealing with are bloody-minded with little interest in the workers welfare.

Elsewhere I have given some thoughts on how to have an effective safety committee so for the rest of this I will concentrate on the role of the safety representative.

Make sure you are trained in your role and responsibilities.

Have a weekly inspection of your area of responsibility.

Familiarise yourself with company safety policies and procedures.

Try to keep the OHS professional on side, If they are any good they should be a source of assistance.

It is easy in safety matters to take an emotional approach, often a well researched argument with financial justification is required.

Depending on the industrial climate in your organisation will determine how useful getting unions involved in safety disputes is.

If you have a solid argument stick to your guns and show no signs of weakness.

Do not be afraid to tell your fellow workers when they are falling down on safety, by the same token communicate your expectations to management.

If your first attempt to introduce change fails, analyse the situation and work smarter next time

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