Workplace Safety Committee Certification Program FAQs
Q. What is the safety committee certification program and when did it start?
A. Amendments made to the Workers' Compensation Act (act) in 1993 provided for a one-time, 5 percent workers' compensation premium discount for any employer who formed and maintained a workplace safety committee covering their PA workplaces, and which met state-established requirements for certification. Now 5 percent discounts can be earned annually as a result of subsequent amendments to the act.
Q. How does a committee become certified?
A. First, the committee must be formed and meet the criteria set forth in the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Regulations, Chapter 129, Subchapter F. Then an application must be completed and approved by the Bureau of Workers' Compensation. This process is repeated annually.
Q. When can PA workplace safety committee certification applications be submitted?
A. Initial applications must be submitted between 90 and 30 calendar days prior to the annual renewal of your workers' compensation policy.
Renewal applications must be submitted between 90 and 15 calendar days prior to the renewal of your workers' compensation policy.
Q. How can I submit my applications?
A. Applications may be submitted through the HandS online filing system. New users will be asked to create a user account. (When establishing the user account, it is recommended that you opt for electronic exchange of information, which means that all subsequent communications will be done online.) Once your account is established, HandS will lead you through the application, section by section. When all of the information is entered and the application has been electronically signed, you can print a copy of your application, press the "submit" button, and you're finished.
Q. Do I have to use the HandS system?
A. Currently, paper applications can also be submitted. However, paper filing may not be available in future years.
Q. What happens after I submit my application?
A. Your application will be reviewed and, if further information or clarification is required, you will be contacted by a reviewing specialist.
Q. Once certified, how do I obtain the 5 percent discount?
A. After your application is approved, you will receive written notification which you must provide to your workers' compensation insurance carrier to be entitled to the discount. The amount of the 5 percent discount will be calculated by the insurer and applied to the premium due at the next policy renewal date following certification approval.
Q. How many discounts can I apply for?
A. There is no maximum to the number of annual, 5 percent discounts that can be earned.
Q. After the initial discount, how are subsequent discounts earned?
A. An application for certification renewal must be completed and submitted each year during your filing timeframe, which is 90 – 15 days before your workers’ compensation insurance policy is due to renew. The application will ask you to attest that the committee continues to meet all certification requirements upon which the initial certification was based. You will be notified by email to your organization’s contact once your renewal is approved. At that time, a certification approval letter will become available on your HandS user dashboard. A copy of the approval letter must be sent to your insurance carrier as notification of certification renewal in order to receive your 5 percent workers' compensation premium discount.
Q. How will I receive my annual safety committee renewal forms?
A. Your renewal application will become available for completion in HandS 90 days before your next workers’ compensation policy renewal date. Applications are no longer available in HandS once the renewal due date is past. Because renewal applications must be submitted between 90 – 15 days before your policy renewal date, you are encouraged to create a calendar entry to remind you when you can start working on your next renewal application (90 days before your WC policy renewal date). Include your HandS User ID and password in the entry, and invite several other Safety Committee members to the ‘event’ so that any one of you can file the application on time.
If next year’s renewal application has not yet been submitted to the bureau by at least 30 days before your next policy renewal date, a courtesy renewal reminder will be emailed to your organization’s contact. This will be the only reminder you will receive, so please be certain your organization’s contact information is always up to date.
If you have not filed electronically through HandS or have not set up a user account, you can access a paper copy of the renewal form from our website.
Q. What are the Requirements for Certification?
A. Certification criteria and requirements may be found in their entirety in Chapter 129, Subchapter F.
A workplace safety committee must meet all certification requirements to be initially certified and must continue to meet those requirements to renew certification and to earn discounts in subsequent years.
Q. What does "FEIN" mean, and where can I find my FEIN?
A. The FEIN stands for Federal Employer Identification Number. You can obtain your FEIN from your payroll department or find it on your workers' compensation insurance declarations page. The FEIN also appears on most payroll checks.
Q. What does "NAICS" mean, and where can I find my NAICS number?
A. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is the standard used by federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy. It identifies the organization's primary type of business (e.g. manufacturing, education, transportation, etc.). You can find your NAICS number on your workers' compensation insurance declaration page, by contacting your workers' compensation insurance carrier or by contacting the person who files your tax return with the IRS.
Q. How often must my committee meet?
A. Official committee members are required to meet monthly.
Q. Does every committee member have to be present at every meeting?
A. A quorum, or 51 percent, of committee members must be present at each meeting. A simple way to think of a quorum is that one more than half the members must be present.
Q. How long does my committee have to be in operation before I apply for certification?
A. Committees must be in existence and operating according to all certification requirements for at least six full calendar months before making application.
Q. What is the best way to submit the required six months of committee information (agendas, minutes and attendance lists) for my initial application?
A. If you are submitting your application electronically using HandS, and you maintain your agendas, meeting minutes and attendance lists electronically, you can cut and paste your meeting information into Section 11 of the application. If you maintain these documents in hard copy form, you can indicate that you will be emailing or faxing the documents in the sections of the applications in HandS which request the documents. Please provide the company name & FEIN when faxing or emailing. Fax number: 717-783-6365; e-mail: RI-LI-BWC-SAFETY@pa.gov.
Q. How many labor and/or management committee members do I need?
A. For certification purposes, committees must have, at minimum, four members, comprised of at least two employer-representatives (ER) and two employee-representatives (EE). One goal of the committee certification program is to establish broad employee involvement in safety and prevention efforts. Therefore, it is permissible to have more EE representatives then ER representatives on a committee. Having more ER representatives than EE representatives is not allowed absent a satisfactory, written explanation to the bureau.
Q. What are the definitions of "employer-representatives" and "employee-representatives"?
A. Employer-representatives are individuals who, regardless of job title or labor organization affiliation, have "direction and control" authority over employees. This includes the authority or responsibility to:
Select or hire an employee
Remove or terminate an employee
Direct the manner of employee performance, or
Control the employee
are individuals who perform services for an employer for valuable consideration and do not possess any authority or responsibility described for an employer-representative.
Q. What types of committee structure are permitted?
A. Single Committee: One workplace safety committee, representing one workplace. The single committee represents the safety interests of all employees at the single location within the commonwealth under the listed FEIN(s).
Centralized Committee: One workplace safety committee, organized centrally, representing multiple employer workplaces. The centralized committee represents the safety interests of all employees at all locations within the commonwealth under the listed FEIN(s).
Multiple (separate and individual) Committee: Multiple workplace safety committees, organized separately and individually, representing multiple workplaces of a single applicant/employer. The number of committees is exactly equal to the number of PA workplaces. Each committee would have to stand alone and meet the requirements of a single committee with its own set of bylaws, member composition, training, etc. The multiple committees represent the safety interests of all employees at all locations within the commonwealth under the listed FEIN(s).
Q. Our committee structure has changed since our last application filing. We were a single committee, and now we have multiple committees. Do I have to do anything special when I renew my certification?
A. Yes, you must supply the committee information for the new committees by doing the following:
In Section 1 (Applicant/Employer Information) of the renewal application, answer "yes" to the question, "Has the committee structure changed?"
Check the box indicating "multiple" committees.
If the number of workplaces has changed, answer "yes" to the question, "Has the number of workplaces changed?
You will then be asked to enter the new number of committees.
Complete Sections 2 - 4 of the application.
In Section 5 (Workplace Details) click on the button "edit committee details" and enter the information requested, including member information for each committee and meeting minutes, etc. and also answer the "yes/no" questions for each committee.
Q. What training must committee members have, and who can conduct this training?
A. Prior to submitting an initial application and annually thereafter, ALL committee members, must, at minimum, be trained in three areas: 1) hazard detection and inspections; 2) accident and illness prevention investigation (including substance abuse awareness and prevention training); 3) safety committee structure and operation. The person(s) conducting this training must hold one of the credentials recognized by the Bureau of Workers' Compensation and have two years of required experience. Please read the Mandatory Requirements for Providers.
Q. When does safety committee member training have to be done in renewal years?
A. For renewal applications, training in the three areas can be conducted any time within your annual workers' compensation policy period. Training for new committee members must be completed within 12 months of joining the committee.
Q. Can annual safety committee certification training be accomplished via teleconference or web-casting from a qualified trainer?
A. Yes, as long as the training method uses an interactive methodology. An interactive methodology is any teaching method that gives the trainees an opportunity to 1) ask questions, 2) seek clarification, 3) make comments, and 4) receive responses immediately, in real-time, from the instructors providing the training. Interactive methodologies include in-person instruction, web casting, video conferencing or any combination of real-time interactions, as long as two-way communication is available and accessible to both the instructor and the trainee. Please read Using Technology to Fulfill Training Requirements for complete guidelines.
Q. Does the meeting of the safety committee solely for annual training count as a monthly meeting, or does the committee still need to conduct a standard, monthly meeting in addition to the training?
A. Annual training can count as a monthly meeting as long as it is documented as a meeting and the training is included on the meeting agenda, attendance is taken and it is recorded in the meeting minutes that training was conducted in the three required areas by a qualified trainer.
Q. Are there any special considerations for school districts or other seasonally impacted employers who may have difficulty in fulfilling the monthly meeting requirement?
A. For certification purposes, there are no exceptions to the requirement for committees to meet monthly. There are, however, several ways for employers either to avoid missing a monthly meeting or to minimize the possible effects of committee member availability where the impact is due to seasonal fluctuations.
First and foremost, you should try to structure your committee so that 1) selected members are available for meetings year round, AND 2) the membership adequately represents ALL primary workplace functions.
Some additional suggestions include:
Scheduling Early: To prevent the possibility of missing a meeting due to extenuating circumstances, schedule meetings early in each month, preferably at a recurring time (e.g., the first Tuesday of every month, etc.) in case rescheduling becomes necessary.
Doubling up on meetings: The bureau allows some latitude for committees to meet the monthly requirement by having two meetings in a given month with the second counting as the monthly meeting for the previous or subsequent month. To count, meetings must be held in the beginning and ending weeks of the month as in the following examples.
Example #1: In 2017, a committee meets the week of June 2nd and again the week of June 23rd. The second meeting could be counted as the July meeting.
Contact us for clarification or help concerning the monthly meeting requirement.
Example #2: In 2017, a committee meets the week of September 1 and again the week of September 29th. The first meeting could be counted as the August meeting.
Q. If the business ownership changes but the FEIN remains the same, does the committee certification continue, or must the employer submit a new initial application for the next policy period? What should the employer do to inform the bureau of this type of change?
A. If the business ownership and/or the FEIN changes, as long as the committee stays intact and is still following all of the regulations such as annual training, meeting monthly with a quorum, keeping meeting minutes, agendas and attendance lists, etc., the employer is not required to complete an initial application. On the renewal application, there are areas to correct the name and/or make FEIN changes.
Q. The person who handled the HandS account in the past has left the company. How do I create a new user name and password?
A. You can create a new user account and override an existing profile by following these directions:
Login to HandS
Select "Create a user profile in HandS." (Note: The system pre-populates dashes in phone numbers and dates, so enter your information slowly.)
Create a user ID and password. The user ID must be 4-10 characters long; the password must be 8-12 characters and must include 3 of the following 4 categories: capital letters, lower case letter, numbers and symbols. Be sure to keep a copy of your ID and password with your certification information for future reference.
You will get a warning message that an active profile/account exists. Select "Accept," and then proceed to complete the user account information requested.
When completed, you will be able to access the account for your company and file documents using the new user ID and password.
Q. Can my committee/certification be audited?
A. Yes, certified workplace safety committees are randomly selected for on-site audits by the Bureau of Workers' Compensation. Notice of an audit and information to be provided during the on-site visit are provided in advance.
At an audit, committee documentation is reviewed and questions are posed as needed to confirm that the committee met all regulatory requirements for certification as attested to by employers on initial and renewal certification applications.
Any policy periods in the current and past two policy years in which a committee was certified will be examined. Audits do not involve a physical workplace inspection.
At the conclusion of an audit, a closing conference will be held during which preliminary findings will be presented. A written audit report will be issued listing official findings.