25 Jul Health and Safety Meetings – what WorkSafe requires
An unknown cynic once said, “Committees are a group of well intending people who singularly can do nothing and decide that nothing can be done – they talk, take minutes and waste hours”.
Are your health and safety meetings like this or are they full of delegation, action and follow up?
If they are, well done! If they are a waste of time with very little interaction, delegation, accountability or follow up, then the following pointers may be of help.
What does the Health and Safety at Work Act state?
Nothing about meetings.
It includes a lot of information about the involvement of employees in all aspects of health and safety in a business, but not defined rules or requirements of when or how they should happen. It would be foolhardy for any business owner not to involve their employees in H&S matters.
To achieve this, many businesses have specific timed health and safety meetings that involve a cross-section of management and employee representatives and these events are called many things, depending on the industry involved.
Workplace improvement management meetings, etc.
How often do I have to have health and safety meetings?
This is a question we are often asked, and the key wording in the Health and Safety at Work Act is “in a timely manner” and this will depend on the nature of the business. There is no specified time frame, but I do recommend that it’s at least once a month to cover off any outstanding safety issues. Many businesses include this meeting as part of their general staff meetings and include other items of importance, like quality, policy, manpower and production issues. It’s more like a team briefing meeting.
Although there is no mention of recording and maintaining your health and safety meeting records, it certainly makes sense to do so for internal auditing by the company, WorkSafe NZ or future ACC, proof of employee involvement in H&S matters.
The next question that arises is how complex do the meeting records have to be? There is no stipulation and don’t be led into thinking that you have to have certain amount of topics or items – it’s your decision how you manage this.
My recommendation is to create a simple agenda with key headings and an area to note who attended. It’s important that you train your employees about the use of the meeting agenda, the meeting process and the time frames for the meeting.
Rotation of the Chairperson
Another idea is to rotate the chairman of the meeting as this helps to get the buy-in from your health and safety group members.
An interesting observation over the past 30 years is that managers are not trained how to run meetings – it has become assumed that because of their position that they will be competent at this skill – and it is a skill.
Have spare copies of the meeting agenda available for the members to access so that they can also write down items for discussion, prior to the meeting. This will save time in the planning as well during the meeting.
Delegation of Responsibility
A key factor in the success of your meeting records is the recording and the delegation of members to carry out a function – who is going to do what by what time.
It’s important that people are delegated responsibility with time frames and that this is recorded.
It is equally important that before the meeting finishes, the chairperson reiterates who is going to what by when, and who they are going to report this to.
Signatures and Confirmation
On most health and safety meeting records, the names of those who attend are recorded. A practice that is happening in a number of industries is the signing off of the meeting record by the attendees. This has a number of benefits, especially for future auditing purposes and if an attendee has a future event that involves any previously made health and safety decisions.
It’s a practical and simple verification process of who was there.
Typing of the Meeting Record
There’s nothing cast in stone if this has to be typed or hand written. It’s up to the business how this is presented. The key here is that they must be legible and easy to read and to reference.
Posting of the Meeting Record
It’s important that this is done as soon as possible after the meeting to inform all other employees what decisions or actions have been made or taken that may affect them.
Copy the meeting record for all those who attended and all senior managers.
Managers need to be in the know if any of the decisions from the meeting includes possible capital expenditure.
Storage of the Meeting Records
There is no description of how or where these records will be stored. What must be remembered is that they should be stored in such a manner that they can be controlled, Identified and retrieved quickly for in the case of an accident investigation, an ACC or audit.
Scanning and Storage
Most businesses use a paper based storage system and this is acceptable but here is another method that will bring your record storage system into the 21st century.
If you have a health and safety folder in your company’s computer system, complete the following:
- Establish a folder in your company computer called “Health and Safety Meeting records”;
- In this folder, set up 3-5 years of subfolders – 2018, 2019, 2020, etc;
- Scan the meeting record to the allocated year in the folder. Don’t forget to enter the month or date of the meeting for quick reference;
- PDF or secure the record so it can’t be altered;
- This method will then allow those with authority to access the system, with the ability to review the records at any time. This can also encourage buy-in from them and other ideas for improvement;
- Store the hard copy in a storage box for future reference, if and when required;
- If your business is using the HASMATE compliance management program, the records can be uploaded from your computer and attached to the document management module for quick access.
The devil lies in the detail and your H&S committee records are but one way to show that you are involving your employees as well as effectively managing your health and safety responsibilities.
For any questions regarding how the Hasmate program can make document management easy for your business, please contact us today.