Conducting Effective Committee Meetings

Categories: Joint Health and Safety Committees, OHS TrainingPublished On: December 11, 2023
A Canadian Company Conducting An Effective Joint Health And Safety Committee Meeting In Ontario

Planning and Facilitating Joint Health and Safety Committee Meetings

Conducting a Meeting

It is important to have a formal agenda. The responsibility for circulating the agenda and then conducting the joint health and safety committee meeting in accordance with the agenda falls mainly on the co-chairs. The OHSA requires meetings to be co-chaired by workers and management members, and the job may, by agreement, alternate between the two.

The OHSA is silent on how meetings are called, agendas set and JHSC meetings conducted. It is up to the members to decide how they will conduct their joint health and safety committee meetings. The JHSC may decide to set a schedule of regular meetings for a year in advance. Members can then reserve these dates and schedule their other activities around them.

The committee should determine a method of scheduling that is flexible enough to accommodate changing conditions in the workplace. The organization can appoint an individual to assist the co-chairs with the agenda-setting and distribution of minutes.

Begin and end the meetings on time to respect the participants’ schedules and demonstrate professionalism. Stick to the agenda and avoid going off-topic excessively. Encourage active participation from all members during the joint health and safety committee meeting.

Create an open and respectful environment where all viewpoints are welcomed and heard. Employ facilitation techniques to ensure discussions remain focused and productive. Co-chairs can guide conversations, encourage input from quieter members, and manage time effectively.

It is normal that there will be disagreements between JHSC members on some issues. This should not be seen as a negative situation. The process of discussing and overcoming disagreements leads to new ideas and, ultimately, progress on health and safety issues. This requires skill, knowledge, and a willingness to find common ground for the betterment of the workplace.

The OHSA requires that members be paid for one hour or such longer period of time as the committee determines is necessary to prepare for each health and safety committee meeting.

A typical JHSC meeting proceeds as follows:

When enough members are present to constitute a quorum, the meeting is called to order by the co-chair and the names of members present are recorded in the minutes. Next, the agenda is reviewed. If a member wishes to alter it, the chair will consider the views of the other members and may allow the change.

Once the agenda has been agreed to, the items are addressed in sequence, and committee business gets underway. It is usual for the first item to be a review of the minutes of the previous joint health and safety committee meeting. It is expected that the committee will have read the previous minutes, and this is simply a check-in to ensure that the minutes are accurate.

A good co-chair concentrates on helping the committee to reach a decision rather than attempting to impose their own views. Normal practice is for the co-chair to allow discussion, ask for clarification and to summarize the points being made.

As committee members, the co-chairs can offer their views, but they normally wait until others have had a chance to speak. Committee decisions are usually made by consensus rather than by formal votes. If the JHSC is unable to reach a consensus, recommendations can be made by either co-chair to the employer.

When the agenda has been exhausted, the co-chair will adjourn the meeting. The members may agree to place unfinished business on the agenda of the next joint health and safety committee meeting.

Co-Chairs

The OHSA requires that JHSC meetings be co-chaired by workers and management members. This sharing of the authority of the chair demonstrates the cooperation and equal status of the workplace parties and provides for agreement on such matters as agendas and the length of joint health and safety committee meetings. One approach is to alternate the chairing of meetings between the two chairs.

Alternatively, the worker and management co-chairs can share the responsibility at each joint health and safety committee meeting. The two co-chairs can also serve as spokespersons for their respective members.

Agendas, Minutes, and Action Items

Agendas

It is common for JHSC to have standing agendas. Many topics, such as inspections, injuries, investigation reports, and reports from subcommittees, are discussed at every meeting. The joint health and safety committee meeting begins with a brief introduction, including the meeting date, time, and location. Also, include any opening remarks or safety reminders/moments. Common items on a standing agenda include:

  • Welcome and introductions – Introduce new members or guests.
  • Safety Moment – Invite committee members to briefly talk about a topic related to safety. This is often something they have experienced that had an impact on them.
  • Review of Previous Minutes – Allocate time to review the minutes from the previous meeting. Allow for corrections or additions if needed before confirming the minutes.
  • Monthly Safety Inspections and Incident Reports – Allocate time to discuss recent safety inspections, hazard reports, and incident investigations. Review any incidents that occurred since the last joint health and safety committee meeting and discuss actions taken or required.
  • New Safety Concerns – Allow time for members to bring up new safety concerns, observations, or near-miss incidents.
  • Review of Action Items – Review action items from previous JHSC meetings and their status. Note whether they have been completed or need further attention.
  • Training Updates – Provide updates on safety training initiatives, attendance, and upcoming training sessions.
  • Committee Reports – If subcommittees or specific tasks have been assigned, allow time for reports from these subgroups.
  • Safety Program Updates – Discuss the progress of ongoing safety programs or campaigns and evaluate their effectiveness.
  • New Safety Initiatives – Present any new safety initiatives or strategies and seek input from the committee.
  • Open Discussion – Allow time for an open discussion on any other safety-related topics, suggestions, or feedback.
  • Next JHSC Meeting Date and Adjournment – Set the date and time for the next joint health and safety committee meeting and officially adjourn the current meeting.

Meeting Minutes

It is a legal requirement to have minutes of each JHSC meeting and to make the minutes available to an inspector upon request. Many workplaces post minutes on safety boards or online as a way of communicating with employees. Minutes may be taken by a JHSC member, or this very important job may be done by a non-voting member assigned to the committee.

  • Attendance – Record the names of all JHSC members present and any guests attending the JHSC meeting.
  • Approval of Previous Minutes – Include a section for the approval of the previous JHSC meeting’s minutes, noting any corrections made.
  • Agenda Topics – Summarize the key discussions and decisions made for each agenda item. Include any important points raised during the meeting.
  • Action Items – List all action items arising from the joint health and safety committee meeting, including the responsible individuals, deadlines, and any additional notes or information.
  • Next Meeting Date – Note the date and time of the next scheduled meeting.
  • Adjournment – Record the official adjournment time of the JHSC meeting.

Action Items

Throughout every health and safety committee meeting, there are discussions that need some form of action to be taken. It can be contacting an individual, researching a new product, or speaking to an individual who is not at the meeting.

It can be very frustrating for committee members if action items are not completed, and at ongoing meetings, the same issues are discussed. It is, therefore, very important to have some way to record and monitor action items.

  • Be clear – Clearly state the specific action to be taken.
  • Responsible Party – Identify the person or department responsible for completing the action
  • Deadline – Set a realistic deadline for the action item to be completed.
  • Support/Resources – Specify any resources or support required to accomplish the task.
  • Status Updates – Include a way to record progress updates during subsequent JHSC meetings. Many committees continue to do this manually on Excel spreadsheets. It is far more efficient to do this digitally.
  • Completion Confirmation – Once the action item is completed, confirm its closure in the minutes of the following health and safety committee meeting.

By following these suggestions for agendas, minutes, and action items, the JHSC can ensure that meetings are well-structured, discussions are well-documented, and safety initiatives are effectively tracked and implemented. Effective joint health and safety committee meeting practices contribute to a more efficient safety committee.

Strategies for Productive Discussions and Decision-Making

Productive discussions and decision-making are critical components of a successful Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC). It is important to create a welcoming atmosphere where all members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas without fear of judgment. Encourage active participation from all committee members by inviting their input and ensuring their voices are heard and respected.

Avoid dominating discussions and allow quieter members to contribute by asking for their opinions directly.

A clear agenda will allow each JHSC meeting to be focused and prevent health and safety committee members from going off-topic. This is the responsibility of the co-chairs. Prioritize safety-related issues and ensure that the most critical matters are discussed first.

Often, committee members will bring up non-safety-related issues because workers and managers are present at the joint health and safety committee meeting. The question to ask is, “Does this topic pose a risk to a worker?” If the answer is no, then it belongs at another meeting.

Emphasize a collaborative approach to problem-solving. Encourage members to work together to find solutions. Use brainstorming techniques to generate creative ideas and alternative solutions for safety challenges. Base discussions and decision-making on data and evidence rather than personal opinions or anecdotes. Share relevant statistics, incident reports, and safety trends to inform discussions.

Practice active listening to ensure that all perspectives are fully understood. This means that when one person is speaking, no one else is. The co-chairs need to limit side conversations and ensure that all members are allowed to speak in turn. Encourage members to communicate clearly and concisely, avoiding jargon or technical language that may be unfamiliar to others.

Aim for consensus among committee members when making decisions, as it fosters ownership and commitment to the chosen course of action. If consensus is challenging, consider compromising or finding common ground to reach an agreement.

Allocate sufficient time for each agenda item but also ensure that discussions do not drag on indefinitely. Use time management techniques, such as setting time limits for each topic, to maintain the JHSC meeting efficiency.

Ensure that discussions result in actionable items or specific tasks that lead to tangible improvements in safety. The discussion must end with a person being assigned responsibilities, with clear deadlines for completion. Regularly review progress on action items during subsequent joint health and safety committee meetings and celebrate achievements.

Embrace a culture of continual improvement by learning from past mistakes and successes. Discuss what worked well and what could be improved for future decisions and safety initiatives.

By implementing these strategies, the JHSC can enhance the quality of discussions, promote effective decision-making, and drive meaningful safety improvements in the workplace. A collaborative and informed approach ensures that the committee’s efforts have a positive and lasting impact on workplace safety.

About the Author

Louise Caicco Tett, Mph, Crsp, Rn - President – Occupational Health And Safety Consultant

Louise Caicco Tett
OHS Consultant

Louise is a Registered Nurse with a degree from Western University. She has a certificate in Occupational Health and Safety and holds her Canadian Registered Safety Professional Designation. Louise also has her Master’s in Public Health (Occupational Health and Safety Management) from Tulane University’s Department of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Louise’s special interests include management systems, leading indicators, safety leadership, mental health, incident investigation, and any emerging health and safety topic.

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