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The value of safety committees

Safety committees are an integral part of WAPA safety culture. Do you know what they do and why they are so important?

WAPA has five primary safety and health committees: one for each region and another at Headquarters. Each committee is made up of an equal number of management and non-management members, in addition to union representatives. Typically, committee representatives serve for a two-year period.

Committees also have non-voting members such as Safety and Occupational Health and Office of Security and Emergency Management representatives. These members serve the committee in a collaborative and advisory capacity by providing technical guidance as impartial participants. This includes advising the committee on various of topics including WAPA and industry incident trends, safety and health programs, facility inspections and emergency planning.

Each committee has a separate charter that defines the organization and its specific duties. The main duty of these safety committees is to evaluate safety and health issues in their respective areas and recommend solutions. They achieve this by meeting regularly and discussing safety and health issues affecting employees. This includes reviewing employee complaints of unsafe or unhealthful conditions and recommending corrective actions. It also includes a review of WAPA Judgement of Needs documents resulting from past Incident Reports to confirm that documented Corrective Action Plans are being addressed and followed.

Sometimes committees work together to address WAPA-wide issues. Below is an example of regional committees working together to improve the WAPA Safety Incentive Program.

Committee case study

This year marks the five-year anniversary of an important meeting at Headquarters that included regional safety committee members and other participants. The working group was tasked with evaluating and improving the Safety Incentive Program in response to a Department of Energy audit that identified several regional differences in program practices.

The goal of the meeting was to build on the current program’s strengths while also resolving regional differences to create a stronger, more consistent and equitable program. In addition to other improvement goals, one main objective was to establish a simple process that measured and recorded safety program participation and success through minimal time and effort.

The group accomplished this by addressing regional program inconsistencies by comparing program criteria and awards, cross-regional reporting issues and unclear eligibility requirements. Then they suggested solutions to these challenges.

Safety committee success

As a result of the working group meeting, a structured Safety Incentive Recognition System was developed with a few participation steps and established deadlines. A two-page certification worksheet was also developed with six safety, health and wellness categories and specific activities that could be achieved for points toward program awards. Both are currently used WAPA-wide and enable employees to follow a set process, measure performance effectively and submit results in a timely manner.

This did not end the committee process. Each year the group meets to reevaluate the program and revise the process based on their assessment and employee suggestions. These annual updates have included improved communication, development of electronic forms and a streamlined submittal process through a centralized awards SharePoint site managed by the Human Resources Shared Service Center. New performance and award categories have also been added to open other opportunities.

Safety committees are a critical part of keeping WAPA employees safe on a local and organizational basis. They also can use input and participation from you. Contact your regional committee and see how you can help improve safety at WAPA.

Note: Robbins is a technical writer who works under the Cherokee Nation Strategic Programs contract.

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Last modified on March 12th, 2024