What OHS committees get wrong
Ever wondered what OHS committees most commonly do wrong? Two workplace safety
experts outline the two most widespread mistakes they have witnessed and
discuss what should be happening.
Marian Moffatt and Natasha White, OHS auditors with the NSW Business Chamber,
believe workplace safety can actually be impeded when an organisation's OHS
committee is not functioning properly.
They told WorkplaceOHS that in their visits to worksites they have come across
two recurring problems with the committees' operation and role within
Firstly, committees can become 'too focused' on hazard identification and not
enough on workplace safety systems.
According to Moffatt and Kilbane, this can lead to a 'spot-fire' mindset, where
the committee is being largely reactive, rather than risk-assessing the OHS
issue across the whole organisation.
For example, a worker may complain of a pain relating to a manual handling
issue. However, simply addressing that particular worker's complaint is not
enough, and the company should in fact re-assess
its manual handling policy and procedures and make sure risk assessments on
machinery are up to date.
You're not Clint Eastwood
According to Moffatt and White, the second most common OHS committee problem is
related to the committee members' role within the company.
They say many committee members often believe they are actually workplace
safety 'enforcers', and attempt to direct or admonish workers on OHS practices.
But, in fact, members should be there in an 'advisory role', Moffatt and White
say, leaving the enforcement to line managers and supervisors.
If a committee member notices a worker wearing inappropriate footwear, for
example, they should report the issue to the worker's manager, advise them of
what is appropriate, and then the manager should be the
person to approach and direct the worker.