Safety Committee

Safety Committee, County/Regional Interdisciplinary Child Information Safety Team, District/School Threat Assessment Team...

What?! There’s a difference?  I am so confused…

With so many changes in legislation, administration, school boards, and general school staff, we thought a quick reminder about safety committees would be helpful for everyone. But, first, we thought that looking at the difference between a safety committee and a safety/threat assessment team would be both welcome and helpful, given the semantic overlap and any potential confusion it might cause.

Safety Committee(s)

County/Regional Interdisciplinary Child Information Safety Team; District/School Threat Assessment Team

Montana Safety Culture Act (1993)
39-71-1501, et seq, MCA

52-2-211, MCA; 20-1-401, MCA; SB213 (2023)

District. Can have school committees if desired.

County (Regional), District, School

All employee groups are represented, and they represent the majority of the members. Intended to be led by the employees.

County Team: defined in 52-2-211, Sec 3, MCA; District/School Threat Assessment Team: key staff; site-based decision.

Every four months (quarterly).

County: As needed for timely exchange of information (52-2-211, MCA)

District/School: minimum once per month (20-1-401, MCA)

Create a safe workplace, reducing on-the-job injuries and illnesses.

Create a safe school learning environment.

Review: workplace safety topics and data such as generalized accident reports and workers’ compensation claims, first aid, hazardous working areas, ladders, lighting, ventilation, etc..

Review: emergency operation plans, communication systems, specific and generalized student safety behavior concerns, threat assessment data, and other pertinent data.

Identifies, promotes, and implements ways to create safer working environments. Does not recommend or make decisions regarding personnel or students.

Identifies recommendations and implements emergency plans, threat assessment protocols, student behavior supports, etc..

Agendas and written documentation of meetings and discussions taken and retained; made available to all employees.

County (Regional): MOU as defined in 52-2-211

District/School: Recommend written documentation of agendas and meetings be taken and retained.

Workplace Safety - Injury/Illness

Threat – Internal/External

Let’s take a deeper dive into the safety committee, which may well be the best-kept secret when it comes to risk management at the district level. 

The diverse representation of key employee stakeholders can have a powerful impact on district safety, and, somewhat surprisingly, quiet leaders serving on this committee often enjoy considerable sway with peers and can thus influence in outsized ways the thinking and, in turn, general safety culture of a workplace.

Potential Members (best members are stakeholders who have an interest in safety):

  • Administrators
  • Teachers
  • Custodial/Facility Maintenance
  • Transportation
  • Food Service
  • Certified Staff (admin assistants, paraprofessionals, etc.)
  • MSGIA Risk Manager and Claims Adjuster

Key Purposes:

  • To examine every aspect of workplace safety as it pertains to the Montana Safety Culture Act and injuries/illnesses.
  • To meet four times per year (fall--prepare for winter; winter—assess winter concerns; spring--address spring/summer safety; summer—identify initiatives for the coming year).
  • To elect a chair to set the meeting agendas and facilitate meetings (ideally not an administrator).
  • To provide strong endorsements, to set clear expectations, and to offer support from the top level of administration.

Key Elements:

  • The number of committees varies by district. There may be one for each building and one for the district, or just one district committee.
  • This is an employee-safety committee in which employees, not management, constitute the majority of the committee.
  • A documented record of each meeting that includes the date, attendees, topics, and minutes is imperative and should be made available to all employees.

Potential Duties/Topics:

  • Data to analyze (not limited to this list):
    • Workers’ compensation data, i.e., claim loss reports for the year (or previous year) that serve to illuminate trends of concern (accidents, injuries, illnesses, location, frequency, etc.) and that provide opportunities for affirmation and celebration. These can likewise be used to establish plans to improve safety performance and environment and to assess and control for hazards. Ensure HIPPA and FERPA rights are protected when analyzing data.
    • Formal review of any near misses, accident reports, observations, or reports of potentially unsafe working conditions, situations, or procedures.
    • Evaluate current safety workplace policies, procedures, and practices and refine these as needed based on current research and best practices.
  • Provide training to district staff on risk management topics, including safety and awareness (Vector Safe Schools provided to you by MSGIA is an excellent resource).

Ensure it is a collaborative and engaged committee that openly asks questions and shares information and potential solutions. 

  • Committee members should be visible in the district, should communicate, and should educate employees on safety-related topics and initiatives while also assisting in the implementation of agreed-upon initiatives, policies, and procedures.
  • Undertake periodic safety audits/walk-arounds to identify unsafe conditions and/or actions. MSGIA has a self-assessment tool, and we can likewise provide a building(s) inspection with your MSGIA Risk Manager. Review the results and identify areas for improvement and celebration.
  • Establish a district-wide positive safety culture focused on employee safety awareness in all workplaces.

A checklist for committee membership and a template for meeting minutes is available on the MSGIA website: Safety Resources, Plans and Checklists, Safety Committees. As always, your MSGIA team is available to assist your district with your safety committee and with your other safety needs. Return to newsletter.