By law, any Minnesota company with at least 25 employees must have a joint labor-management safety and health committee that works to reduce workplace injuries and promote a safe work environment. Since 1995, the rule also has applied to smaller companies with lost-workday incidents that put them in the top 25 percent of Workers’ Compensation insurance premium rates.
If MN OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) discovers a company lacks a functioning safety committee required by Minnesota Rule 5208, it can issue a citation for a “serious” level violation. That will increase the ceiling on applicable fines and boost Workers’ Compensation Insurance rates. A second “serious” citation can lead to significant monetary fines.
With about 180,000 worksites and only 2,500 enforcement inspections annually, the chance of being cited is relatively low for most businesses. However, highly visible worksites and high-risk professions are much more likely to attract OSHA’s attention. So are companies with a history of jobsite injuries or disgruntled employees or clients who are motivated to blow the whistle.
Workplace Safety is Smart Business
Actually, construction companies should take the safety committee requirement seriously because it makes good business sense. With Minnesota’s extreme shortage of skilled labor, employers cannot afford to lose experienced staff to preventable injuries or health problems. Also, when employers define and enforce safe practices it demonstrates concern for the welfare of their workers and clients, which aids retention. Plus the joint labor-management committee model encourages labor buy in. This can offset the macho tendencies of tradesmen who consider safety precautions a nuisance that gets in the way of doing their jobs.
Addressing Workplace Violence
Safety and health committee activities are not limited to preventing falls and exposure to hazardous materials. They also should address workplace violence. This could include gun policies, active shooter drills, and reporting red flag behaviors. At a minimum, have a zero tolerance policy on workplace violence.
Residential Remodelers vs. Commercial Contractors
Residential remodeling companies with fewer than 25 employees are not required to have joint labor-management safety committees unless they trigger the high lost-workdays provision. However, large commercial contractors should take the safety committee obligation seriously to manage exposure and risk.
If a commercial construction worker reports an injury and OSHA investigates, assume it will check on compliance with the safety committee requirement. Don’t hand OSHA an easy two-fer.
The US Department of Labor and OSHA give priority to inspect worksites where:
- Someone reports an imminent danger or complains to OSHA
- Someone dies at work or more than three employees are hospitalized following a workplace incident
- The company is in an industry with high injury, illness or workers’ compensation rates (construction, roofing) or exposure to hazardous materials such as lead, silica, isocyanates or combustible dust.
Free Resources to Create Safety Committee
Minnesota enacted legislation in 1994 that provides free assistance to help small businesses establish safety committees. Consultants from state agencies and universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, advise them on OSHA compliance and assist them in establishing injury and illness prevention programs. These on-site consultations are independent of the OSHA enforcement activities and do not trigger penalties or citations.
To learn more about the free consult program visit OSHA online or call 1-800-321-6742 and press option 4. For helpful guidelines on creating a Safety and Health Committee, download the Employer’s Guide to Establishing a Labor/Management Safety Committee.