Frequently Asked Questions
- Do all colleges need to establish safety committees?
- Why do colleges have to establish safety committees?
- Why are colleges responsible for this? Isn’t EHS responsible for safety?
- In addition to the college safety committee, do colleges have to establish safety committees in every department?
- Are safety committees expected to act as “safety police” in their college or department?
- Who should serve on the safety committee?
- What support and resources are available to safety committees?
- How often should committees meet?
- How do people find out who is on their safety committee?
- Can people review the agendas and minutes of safety committee meetings?
- How can people raise safety issues with their committees?
In general, yes. However, in recognition of the differences in size, complexity, research, and inherent hazards amongst colleges, flexibility is afforded as to how this requirement is implemented. For colleges with limited hazards that typically do not exceed those found in a normal office environment, the responsibilities of the college safety committee may be assigned to an individual “safety coordinator” or “safety officer” in place of a committee or the safety committee responsibilities may be assigned to a previously existing committee.
The establishment and promotion of active safety committees is considered a “best practice” and a proven way to encourage a culture of safety and improve safety performance in complex organizations. The University of Utah committed to establishing a system of college safety committees in response to the State of Utah audit findings in “A Performance Audit of the University of Utah’s Laboratory Safety Practices, (Report No. 2019-04).” At the same time, the University President’s Lab Safety Culture Task Force also recommended the formation of safety committees based on the traditional management structure of the University.
See the Requirement to Establish College Safety Committees memo for more information.
Yes, it is true that Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) is the primary entity responsible for workplace safety on campus. However, all individuals on campus – students, staff, faculty, and administrators, have important health and safety responsibilities that only they can effectively carry out. The primary roles of EHS are (1) to ensure the University has structures and processes in place to establish, promote, and maintain a safe work place, (2) provide technical interpretation, guidance, and support to the campus community with respect to health and safety, and (3) conduct oversight of safety programs to measure effectiveness and demonstrate compliance with all applicable regulations.
As a practical matter, an effective safety program requires all individuals to understand their role and take personal responsibility for conducting their work safely on a daily basis. While EHS can set campus policies and provide guidance, EHS does not have the personnel, time, or detailed knowledge to review, monitor, or take responsibility for every operation being conducted on our complex and diverse campus each day. That’s where local safety committees come in.
Local safety committees, guided and supported by EHS, are a force-multiplier. They are a proven way to improve the effectiveness of safety programs and promote a culture of safety in complex organizations. Local safety committees are composed of members with expertise and experience specific to the work conducted in their department or unit, and therefore can offer peer-to-peer guidance on conducting work safely. That is the primary reason that both State auditors and the University Safety Culture Task Force recommended that local safety committees be required at the University.
Safety committees are expected to work closely with Environmental Health and Safety in implementing health and safety requirements within colleges, facilitating peer-to-peer safety inspections, and ensuring effective corrective actions.
In general, no. In recognition of the differences in size, complexity, research, and inherent hazards amongst colleges, flexibility is afforded as to the number and structure of safety committees within colleges.
Large or complex colleges with significant hazards (e.g., chemical, biological, radiological, physical in the form of compressed gases, extremes in temperature and/or pressure, and/or use of equipment that poses high potential for bodily harm) are encouraged to establish safety committees at the School, Department, or Program level, as appropriate. The number and organization of sub-college committees should be commensurate with the existing hazards and be reflective of the college structure. For example, within the College of Science, separate safety committees have been established in the Departments of Chemistry, Physics, and Biological Sciences, with the Department of Mathematics not having a separate committee.
Regardless of the exact organization of safety committees within a college, what is most important is that all units within a college have access to a local safety committee that can provide peer-to-peer review and support. The intent is for committees to be established at levels that maximize their effectiveness in carrying out the committee responsibilities.
No. Safety committees are intended to provide local expertise and knowledge and be a peer resource to help all college members conduct their work safely and consistent with regulatory requirements. Ideally, safety committees should act as partners, providing guidance and college resources to address safety concerns. For example, safety committees are expected to conduct periodic peer-to-peer workplace/laboratory inspections to identify hazards, recommend methods for eliminating or controlling the hazards, and assist the responsible individuals in implementing effective corrective actions for identified deficiencies.
That being said, if a safety committee identifies conditions that represent a serious or immediate safety concern or that do not comply with regulatory requirements, the committee is expected to take prompt action to prevent those conditions from causing a workplace injury or incident. This might include working with the PI or lab manager to address the issue on-the-spot, contacting EHS for assistance, or informing the Dean that action needs to be taken. In extreme cases, the Director of EHS is authorized to suspend workplace operations for safety-related reasons.
The size and membership of safety committees should be commensurate with the risks and hazards that exist within the college and reflect the scope and breadth of work conducted. It is recommended that the committees include faculty, staff, and students to ensure that all perspectives are represented. The committee should also include a management (Dean or Director’s office) representative whose purpose is to facilitate provision of needed resources for the committee and provide a direct link to the Dean/Director for support of safety committee initiatives.
Individuals on the committee do not need specific experience or expertise in safety, although they should have subject matter expertise that allows them to identify workplace hazards and appropriate controls. EHS will provide training to committee members on roles, responsibilities, and expectations.
It is expected that College Administrators, Department Chairs, and Directors will provide time, resources, and necessary support to make safety committees successful.
In addition, EHS will provide administrative support, training, and resources to all safety committees. These resources will be provided primarily through the EHS safety committee web site and also through in-person trainings, if requested. EHS will provide templates for committee charters, agendas, and minutes, and also provide a shared repository on the web site for this information.
EHS will also have a representative at all committee meetings. The role of the EHS representative will be to report metrics on incidents, injuries, inspection findings, and status of corrective actions to the committee. EHS will provide support and/or guidance on implementation of regulatory requirements to the committee for dissemination to the departments and update committee members on changes to University health and safety policies and EHS processes and procedures.
It is recommended that committees meet regularly, such as monthly or quarterly. The frequency of meetings should be determined by each college based on their needs and the type of activities that occur within the college. A safety committee charter should specify the frequency of committee meetings -- a draft charter is available on the Safety Committee web site for committees to modify as they see fit.
Rosters and contact information for all safety committees are available on the safety committee web site.
Yes, safety committee agendas and meeting minutes are available on the safety committee web site.
Safety issues can be directed to EHS through the EHS web site or by calling 801-581-6590 at any time. In addition, employees and students can directly contact their safety committee to identify workplace health and safety hazards or issues. Students and employees can present concerns in writing or in person to a committee member. The committee shall address serious issues immediately and review all new concerns at the next regularly-scheduled meeting. The committee shall respond to all student/employee concerns in writing and include the response in the meeting minutes.