October 2002

     Safe Sense
Workplace Tips

The “Safety” Roundtable
Setting Up a Small Group with Other Companies Can Be Beneficial
by Bill Carson

You’ve heard of business roundtables where owners or managers from different companies meet together to discuss their business operations. Why not safety roundtables? 

The concept is as follows: 

1. The person responsible for the day-to-day safety operations in each company participates in the roundtable. 

2. Each roundtable is made up a minimum of six companies. The companies can be industry-oriented or non-industry-oriented. Since construction is a key part of most companies’ operations, you could form a roundtable made up of other sub-contractors and even include the general contractor. 

3. Meetings could be held every other month, quarterly, etc. If there are six companies on the roundtable, the first six meetings would be held at each company’s shop or yard. During each meeting, the other five members of the roundtable would evaluate the host company’s safety operations. There is nothing better than learning from your peers. 

4. A moderator who is not a roundtable member is selected. The moderator is responsible for making sure the meetings are productive and making sure participants do not get off the subject. The moderator (who can be paid or a volunteer) should have expertise in safety. If there are fees or expenses to be paid for the moderator, the cost is divided equally among all roundtable participating companies.

5. The moderator develops a list of subjects to be discussed with input from the roundtable members. A suggested list of topics are: safety manuals, safety enforcement, safety policies, safety promotion, OSHA regulations, preventing accidents, personal protective equipment, employee and employer safety responsibilities, employee safety meetings, etc. 

6. Guest speakers such as code officials, OSHA compliance officers, suppliers of safety equipment, doctors, workers comp insurance representatives, etc., can be invited to roundtable meetings. If there is a cost, it would be divided up equally among all participating roundtable companies. 

Rules and regulations (norms) for the operation of the roundtable need to be developed. For instance, all roundtable members must provide information and participate in roundtable discussions. This prevents someone from attending meetings, cherry-picking everything they want to know and not providing anything in return. If a roundtable member misses meetings without a substantial reason, he could be removed from the roundtable (see sidebar on norms).

Roundtables, if set up properly, are the best way to see and learn what other people and companies are doing to improve their safety operations. 

Create Norms for the Safety Roundtable

When creating a roundtable, it’s a good idea to come up with a set of norms for the group. Why are norms a good idea? According to the book “Effective Group Discussion” by John K. Brilhart and Gloria J. Galanes, “Norms guide and regulate the behavior of the group members. They govern how and to whom members speak … what they talk about and when, what language may be used, and so on. The whole process among group members is rule-governed. Rarely do norms specify absolutes; rather, they indicate ranges of acceptable and unacceptable behavior.”

There are two kinds of norms: general norms, which direct the group’s behavior, and role-specific norms, which concern individual members’ roles. Here are some examples of general norms and role-specific norms (These are not the norms your group has to follow; create your own.):

     Examples of General Norms 
     (applicable to every member) 
          • Members should sit in the same position at each meeting.

          • Members should address each other by first names.

          • Other members should not disagree with the chair’s ideas.

          • No one may smoke during meetings.

          • Members may leave the meeting to get a drink, but should return to their seats promptly.
          • Members should arrive on time for meetings.

     Examples of Role-Specific Norms
     (applicable to specific members)
          • The leader should prepare and distribute an agenda in advance of the meeting.

          • The leader should summarize from time to time, but other members may do so if a summary is needed.

          • The secretary should distribute minutes of the previous meeting at least three days before the next meeting.

          • Mary may play critical tester of all ideas by asking for evidence.

          • John should tell a joke to relieve tension when the climate gets tense during an argument.

Bill Carson is manager of ManCon LLC of Lake Mary, Fla. He has spent more than 15 years developing, managing and supervising training programs for the building products industry. As a service to SHELTER readers, Mr. Carson is available for your safety questions at 407/330-1698.



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