Building A Better Safety and Health Committee

by John P. Spath, CSP

Published by ASSE, 1800 E. Oakton St., Des Plaines, IL 60018-2187; phone (847) 699-2929. 1998, softcover, 150 pp.; $19.95 members; $24.95 non-members. ISBN 1-885581-11-4. Order #4365

This book provides a comprehensive set of practical guidelines for establishing and operating safety and health committees that work. It grew out of the author's study of employers in New Hampshire.

Specifically, employers were invited by the Safety and Health Council of New Hampshire to attend workshops concerning revisions to the state's workers' compensation law. Under the new law, all employers with five or more employees must establish joint loss management (JLM) committees- which are, as it turns out, traditional safety committees. Spath was allowed to survey participating employers concerning their use of (and satisfaction with) these committees.

If one believes that safety committees are an essential factor in maintaining a safe workplace, the information collected is invaluable. Why? Because it clearly identifies the reasons why some safety committees in some organizations don't work- an important first step in understanding how to make them work.

Chapter 1 contains the survey findings, of which two are prominent: 1) only six of 10 employers are satisfied with their safety committees; and 2) ineffective management of safety committees is a primary cause of dissatisfaction with them. Chapters 2 through 9 contain the information the reader needs to properly establish and manage safety committees. Chapter 10 is a comprehensive directory of organizations of importance to anyone involved in workplace safety and health.

When safety committees work well, they can play a major role in giving a company the competitive advantage of a safe and healthy workplace. Spath has written an excellent prescription for making them work well. Every company that operates in today's hyper-competitive marketplace must understand what I call the "leaky bucket syndrome." Many firms are like a leaky bucket in that as fast as income pours into the top, money drains out the bottom through leaks. These leaks include all medical, legal, insurance and other non-value-added costs associated with accidents and injuries- costs that amount to more than $50 billion each year in the U.S. The safety committee can be an excellent tool for helping plug these leaks, thereby increasing the amount of income that can be invested to continually improve organizational performance and, in turn, the bottom line.

This is a practical, beneficial book that I would use myself.

Reviewed by
David L. Goetsch, Ph.D.
Fort Walton Beach, FL