Safety Committees are vehicles of patience. They are a best seller fine-tuned to the nuances of the folks who come to the table every month to discuss issues, problem solve, agree to reach consensus and work together to be effective. Some meetings may be non-eventful with a little flirting or skirting of the issue, some commonplace, and others…well, that is where it gets interesting.
Every good relationship requires work. Safety committees are no exception. I once led a safety committee originating in the throes of a political community scandal. New to my municipality and position, and not knowing the intricacies of existing relationships, I was puzzled by the roadblocks to communication. Getting folks to agree to any form of risk and safety programming in the first years was painful. Instilling a sense of belonging took years, constructive open warfare, and raw unadulterated stubbornness to instill community first.
Equality is the key to risk and safety success – one person – one vote with no job title attached. When you come to a meeting, you need to check your attitude at the door. The membership of your committee needs to mirror your entity and your community. You need to take a hard look at what roles are important to the success of your risk and safety management programming and seek those folks out. I am not ashamed to admit that cookies and fruit-flavored lollypops have been key ingredients to achieving consensus on difficult issues.
Risk and safety involve partnership, dialogue, and mutual respect. Your committee should feel passion for your community and understand its ability to successfully tackle an issue may take time and patience. You need to be tenacious and stubborn. It’s important to instill that relationships are based upon tolerance and partnership and…safety in numbers.
A nun once told me that every negative is an opportunity for improvement, a chance to right a wrong, and the ability to unilaterally take advantage of a situation to turn it upside down and right side up. Suffice it to say, embrace that lively meeting of yours and the ability to right your ship in the midst of adversity.
A glass half empty or a glass half full? It is your choice as you determine your safety committee’s reality. Let me argue that adversity brings an ability to challenge misconceptions, promote partnership, and instill commitment. Safety committees should mirror the soul of the community you serve. They need to be multi-faceted and robust in the politics of the environment to withstand the temperament of the few. Every human has a need to belong. Make your team understand you need them to belong to you and to each other.
Safety committees require courage and side-by-side leadership. They recognize that risk professionals walk together as we problem solve and suggest solutions, but never judge. Take the plunge…the challenge of communication and be brave. Believe in yourself and instill in each of your safety committee members that they are an integral part of everything you are and all they hope to be…secure in the knowledge you stand together in the sunshine and in the rain.