I remember years ago helping to get my safety committee members signed up for the annual Southern Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Conference. This was a big deal. We depended on this conference to boost our safety committee members’ knowledge about their role in many different safety topics. New safety committee members always went to the safety committee track to make sure they had the required safety committee training. Seasoned safety committee members often chose other topics that they were working on that could help them make our department better. Part of this process included applying for safety committee awards and safety program awards. Would we finally get the coveted “Randall Lundberg” award for outstanding safety and health program this year? Would we be in the running for the exclusive “Best of the Best” for safety committees? Did we work hard enough to earn these awards in the last 14 months? We were enrolling our safety committee members to attend the best safety conference in Southern Oregon when we noticed a new question on the application. It read, “Who is responsible for safety at your company?” Aha! We knew the answer to this question. Our department had attended enough of these conferences to know what the correct answer to this question was. We knew that there was only one correct answer you could ever give to that question. This was a foundational safety principle and clearly the conference organizers were trying to test our safety culture IQ with this clever question. We all patted ourselves on the back as we answered the question correctly with a “me” or a “everyone,” convinced we had passed the test. In hindsight, the lesson was clear: The Southern Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Conference had effectively shaped the way that our safety committee understood safety and our role to keep everyone safe.
It has been a constant refrain for the last few months—the conference will not happen this year. It still hurts to say it, and it hurts as I type it now. I do find comfort in this fact: our chapter is still committed to safety committees. This event will be available as free recorded content for you and your safety committees. This material can help support your safety committee in its important role.
Years later I had a chance to speak to a couple veteran conference planning committee members. I asked them why we don’t ask the safety culture question on the enrollment process anymore. They admitted that they weren’t sure what I was talking about as they glanced at each other with puzzled expressions. I explained to them the question, “Who is responsible for safety at your company?” When they realized what I was referring to, they said, “Oh, we just wanted to know who to send the attendee schedules to.”
Let our free Safety Committee University continue our long tradition of helping safety committee members to understand their important role in workplaces across our region and beyond.
President, ASSP – Southern Oregon Chapter
Senior Safety Management Consultant, SAIF Corporation