When the Joint Health & Safety Committee (JHSC) Doesn’t Agree

Sometimes, even the most well-oiled JHSC may disagree. Disagreements may include:

  • What constitutes a hazard
  • How to control a hazard
  • Whether or not a recommendation is required
  • The nature of the recommendation
  • Responsibility for implementing the recommended control

Disagreeing can be Positive

Many people in our culture tend to view conflict in a very negative light. While it is true that some conflict can be unproductive, there are ways to use it productively. Positive conflict can be used to create a beneficial resolution by keeping the focus on the issue, not on people. Positive conflict doesn’t condone personal attacks. When the focus remains on the issues, creative resolutions and solutions can be found. Conflict also indicates passion. Rarely will people speak what they believe, if others disagree. So, when the JHSC doesn’t agree, it is usually because a person or group care about the issue a lot. In the case of the JHSC, caring about safety is never a bad thing.

How to Agree

Even though conflict can be productive, it’s important that JHSC doesn’t get weighed down by it. When the JHSC doesn’t agree, have some strategies on hand to ensure that disagreements are settled respectfully and productively.

Set Ground Rules:

Set ground rules for conflict. They may include:

  • No personal attacks
  • Everyone has a chance to speak
  • Members must allow the speaker to finish before asking questions or offering comments
  • When no agreement can be reached, an expert may be consulted

Take a Vote:

Sometimes, a disagreement can be settled by a vote. It is important to note that if your committee decides to use a vote to settle a disagreement, the results should be final. Prior to voting, it should be explicit that members on the losing side need to accept the outcome.

Put it in Perspective:

When the JHSC doesn’t agree, subscribe to a scale. For example, people disagree with many things, but they can still accept and live with them. In the case of a disagreement, pose the question to members: even if you disagree with the course of action, can you live with it? In most cases, the answer will be yes.

Get More Information:

Sometimes, the JHSC doesn’t agree because they are missing information. If you’ve tried everything and the group still can’t agree, it may be that there just isn’t enough information available to make an informed decision. In these cases, don’t be afraid to step back and say, “We may need some more information to agree on something, here.” Be sure to decide what information may be lacking and assign a member to collect it.

Look to the Past:

When the JHSC doesn’t agree about how to proceed, look to the past. On one hand, this may help point the group toward successful controls. On the other hand, it may indicate controls that don’t have a historical record for working. This doesn’t mean you have to do things the way they’ve always been done, or that you can never try anything new. Looking back is simply another method of collecting data.

The goal of the JHSC is to be effective in identifying hazards and recommending controls. But beyond that, the JHSC is invested in worker safety. If the JHSC doesn’t agree, a reminder of this shared goal may prove useful. If JHSC members are cognizant of why they are really on the JHSC — to keep workers safe — they may have an easier time coming to an agreement, even on the toughest sticking points.

Written by Jennifer Miller | Curriculum Development Coordinator


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