If you are operating a business in Canada, you need to have a Joint Health and Safety Committee. The committee can also be called the Joint Work Site Health and Safety Committee, Occupational Health Committee, Workplace Safety and Health Committee, or The Occupational Health and Safety Committee.
What is a Joint Health and Safety Committee and What Does it do?
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety’s (CCOHS) definition is:
‘A Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) is a forum for bringing the internal responsibility system into practice. The committee consists of labour and management representatives who meet on a regular basis to deal with health and safety issues. The advantage of a joint committee is that the in-depth practical knowledge of specific tasks (labour) is brought together with the larger overview of company policies, and procedures (management).’ ¹
The committee’s role is to assist the employer to:
- Recognize workplace hazards.
- Evaluate the hazards and risks that may cause incidents, injuries and illness.
- Participate in development and implementation of programs to protect the employees’ safety and health.
- Respond to employee complaints and suggestions concerning safety and health.
- Ensure the maintenance and monitoring of injury and work hazard records.
- Monitor and follow-up hazard reports and recommend action.
- Set up and promote programs to improve employee training and education.
- Participate in safety and health inquiries and investigations, as appropriate.
- Consult with professional and technical experts.
- Participate in resolving workplace refusals and work stoppages.
- Make recommendations to management for incident prevention and safety program activities.
- Monitor effectiveness of safety programs and procedures. ²
Having a JHSC is mandatory or subject to ministerial decision in all Canadian jurisdictions. However, certain workplaces may be exempt from this requirement (see Table 1).
How to Create a Joint Health and Safety Committee
There is one overarching legislation, The Canada Labour Code, Part II (R.S.C. 1985, C. L-2), Sections 135 to 137 which dictates whether the creation of a committee is necessary and how many members it must have. *At the end of this article is listed the provincial and federal legislation for joint health and safety committees from the different jurisdictions in Canada.
Table 1 gives the suggested number of committee members, based on the size of a company. It is important that committees are a true representation of the workforce and have enough members so all areas of the company are represented. However, committees should not have so many members that too much time is spent debating issues instead of progressing actions.
When deciding on the ideal size of a committee CCOHS suggests considering:
- Total number of workers
- Number of different trades or unions involved
- Complexity of the operation
- Degree of hazard in work
- Whether all segments of work force are represented (management, supervisors, male workers, female workers, office staff)
- Whether the committee encompasses adequate knowledge of conditions, processes, practices ⁴
Members that join a JHSC need to have appropriate training in order for them to contribute successfully. The federal legislation Canada Labour Code, Part II (R.S.C. 1985, c. L-2) Section 125 (z.01) dictates employers must,
“…ensure that members of policy and work place committees and health and safety representatives receive the prescribed training in health and safety and are informed of their responsibilities under this Part” ⁵
Some jurisdictions have set mandatory training amounts or education hours necessary for committee members. Some provinces have specified terms of office, however if they do not, the Canada Labour Code states that a member can only have their position for a maximum term of two years. ⁶
What are the Roles of Committee Members?
Once a committee has been established a Chair or Co-Chairs and a Secretary need to be appointed. These roles have additional responsibilities to the other committee members.
Specific Chair/Co-chairperson duties may include:
- Scheduling meetings, notifying members.
- Preparing an agenda.
- Inviting specialists or resource persons as required.
- Presiding over meetings.
- Guiding meeting as per agenda.
- Ensuring all discussion items end with a positive decision.
- Reviewing and approve the minutes.
- Assigning projects to members.
- Ensuring that the committee carries out its function. ⁷
The Secretary’s duties may include:
- Keeping pertinent records.
- Reporting on the status of recommendations.
- Preparing the minutes.
- Distributing the minutes after approval.
- Disseminating safety information to members.
- Assisting the chairperson as required. ⁸
The most important job of the person elected as secretary is to keep accurate minutes of each meeting. These are vital to keep a record of discussions of the JHSC and ensure concerns and decisions are documented correctly. Minutes are generally circulated to all committee members and a copy displayed somewhere within the workplace that can be read by workers and members of staff.
Some jurisdictions require minutes from meetings to be recorded in specific formats and be sent to them directly. Others require minutes to be held for two years and made available if requested. ⁹
What are the Committee Members Responsibilities?
It is important that workers know who the members of the JHSC are. Legislation requires the posting of committee members names where workers can access it. ¹⁰ This allows workers to contact committee members with any occupational health and safety (OH&S) concerns or new workers who are going through their orientation to identify who to go to in the future.
Committees should communicate with the workforce frequently, so workers are aware of issues being debated. Workers need to have a positive view of the committee, so they are more likely to go to them with concerns. Committee members should make workers aware of successes they have had and solutions they have implemented, as committees can sometimes become tarnished and only be known for things that have gone badly, rather than all their past achievements.
Finally, CCOHS stress that,
‘…the establishment of a committee in no terms removes the responsibility for worker health and safety from the employer. As a representative of the employer, managers and supervisors continue to have legal health and safety responsibilities.
It must be clearly understood by all concerned that the employer’s responsibility for safety is in no way diluted or diverted with the formation of a joint health and safety committee.’ ¹¹
WorkSafeBC have created a helpful PDF of frequently asked questions about Joint Health and Safety committees which can be viewed and downloaded from:
*Provincial and federal legislation where you will find the guidelines for joint health and safety committees across all jurisdictions:
Canada Labour Code, Part II (R.S.C. 1985, C. L-2), Sections 135 to 137
Workers Compensation Act, (R.S.B.C. 1996 as amended) Part 3, Division 4, Sections 125 to 140
Occupational Health and Safety Act (R.S.A. 1980, c. O-2 as amended), Part 3 Joint Work Site Health and Safety Committees and Health and Safety Representatives, Sections 16 to 30
Occupational Health and Safety Code (October 2003) Part 13 Joint Work Site Health and Safety Committee, Sections 196 to 202
(Called Joint Work Site Health and Safety Committees)
Saskatchewan Employment Act (S.S., 2013, c. S-15.1), Sections 3-22 to 3-27
(Called: Occupational Health Committees)
Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 1996 (R.S.S., c. O-1, r.1), Sections 38 to 49
Workplace Safety and Health Act (R.S.M. 1987, c. W210), Section 40
(Called: Workplace safety and health committees)
Workplace Safety and Health Regulation (Man. Reg. 217/2006), Part 3
Occupational Health and Safety Act (R.S.O. 1990, c. O.1), Section 9(2)
Quebec (English language legislation)
Act respecting Occupational Health and Safety (R.S.Q., c. S-2.1), Chapter IV, Sections 68 to 86.
And the Regulation respecting health and safety committees (R.R.Q. 1981, c. S-2.1, r. 6.1, O.C. 2025-83)
(Called: Health and Safety Committees)
Occupational Health and Safety Act (A.N.B. 1983, c. O-0.2), Sections 14 to 18
Occupational Health and Safety Act (S.N.S. 1996, c. 7), Sections 29 to 32
Prince Edward Island
Occupational Health and Safety Act (R.S.P.E.I. 2004, c. 42), Section 25
Occupational Health and Safety Act (R.S.N. 1990, c. O-3), Sections 37 to 40
(Called: Health and Safety Committees)
Occupational Health and Safety Act (R.S.Y. 1986, c. 123), Sections 12 & 13
Safety Act (R.S.N.W.T. 1988, c. S-1), Section 7.1
(Called: Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee)
Also: Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (R-039-2015), Part 4
Safety Act (R.S.N.W.T. 1988, c. S-1), Section 7
(Called: Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee) ¹²