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About Worker Health and Safety Representatives and Joint Health and Safety Committees

Worker Health and Safety Representatives

What is a worker health and safety representative?

Farming operations with more than five regularly employed workers and no joint health and safety committee must have a worker health and safety representative [section 8(1)]. Worker health and safety representatives are committed to improving health and safety conditions in the workplace. The representative, with input from other workers, identifies potential health and safety problems, and then brings them to the employer's attention.

The health and safety representative is selected by workers at the workplace, and must be someone who does not exercise managerial functions[ 1 ] [section 8(5)]. The representative does not require special training or certification and is entitled to take paid time to attend inspections and investigations [section 8(15)].

See "Roles and Responsibilities" in this document for more information on the functions of a worker health and safety representative.

Joint Health and Safety Committees

What is a joint health and safety committee?

A joint health and safety committee is composed of people who represent the workers and the employer. Together, they are committed to improving health and safety conditions in the workplace. Joint health and safety committees identify potential health and safety problems and bring them to the employer's attention. As well, members must be kept informed of health and safety developments in the workplace.

Why are joint health and safety committees necessary?

Joint health and safety committees are necessary to provide greater protection against workplace injury and illness, and greater protection means reduced human suffering, work-related accidents and work-related deaths. Joint health and safety committees often involve people from all levels of an operation. This co-operative involvement ensures that everything possible is done to eliminate health and safety hazards.

What is the joint health and safety committee's role?

The joint health and safety committee is an advisory body that helps to stimulate awareness of safety issues, recognizes workplace risks and then deals with these risks. To achieve its goal, the joint health and safety committee holds meetings and conducts regular workplace inspections.

How large should a joint health and safety committee be?

In mushroom, greenhouse, dairy, cattle, hog and poultry farming operations where there are between 20 and 49 workers regularly employed, the joint health and safety committee must have a minimum of two members [section 9(6)(a)]. Where there are 50 or more workers regularly employed on these types of operations, the joint health and safety committee must have at least four members [section 9(6)(b)]. In both cases, at least half the members on a joint health and safety committee must represent workers [section 9(7)], with the balance representing management [section 9(9)].

Whenever possible, joint health and safety committee membership should represent the health and safety concerns of the entire workplace. For example, if a workplace has a greenhouse and a barn, both of these areas should be represented on the joint health and safety committee.

What if there is a dispute about the establishment or function of a joint health and safety committee?

The Ministry of Labour should be alerted to any dispute about the establishment, function or composition of a joint health and safety committee. Upon investigation, the Minister of Labour may issue an order to an employer to improve the function of a joint health and safety committee [sections 9(3), 9(5) and 9(39)].

Joint Health and Safety Committee Members

How are committee members selected?

At least half the joint health and safety committee members must be worker members: non-management workers at the workplace who are selected by other non-management workers [sections 9(7) and 9(8)].

The employer chooses members as well (employer members) [section 9(9)]. Employer members must be people who exercise managerial functions. For example, an employee who has the authority to discipline, hire, fire or recommend discipline, hiring or firing is considered a managerial employee. It is recommended that the employer select representatives by giving consideration to their knowledge of operations and to their duties and responsibilities as they relate to work procedures and safety.

When dealing with a specific issue, the joint health and safety committee may wish to invite persons with specialized knowledge or experience to attend as advisers or observers. It is recommended that these persons attend meetings only when their specialized knowledge or experience is necessary at the meeting, rather than attending every meeting.

Do committee members need special training or certification?

In mushroom, greenhouse, dairy, cattle, hog and poultry operations with 50 or more regularly employed workers, the joint health and safety committee will require at least two members--one representing the employer and one representing workers--to be chosen for special training (as certified members) [section 9(12) of the Act, section 3(3) of Ontario Regulation 414/05]. Among its functions under section 4 of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, Ontario's Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) sets the standards for training and certifies joint health and safety committee members who complete approved training programs. Certified health and safety committee members play a key role on the joint health and safety committee and have specific authority and responsibilities.

Other specialized training is available through workplace organizations and outside agencies. Although it is beneficial for all members to have adequate training, it is not a requirement under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

How long is a committee member's term of office?

A term of at least one year (or at least one full growing season) is recommended. Where there is more than one worker member and one employer member, terms should be staggered to allow continuity. Vacancies should be filled as quickly as possible.

Do committee members get paid for their time?

Members are entitled to take time to attend joint health and safety committee meetings, inspections and investigations, as well as to accompany ministry inspectors investigating an accident, potential hazard or a work refusal [sections 9(34) and 54(5)]. Members will be paid at either their regular rate or, where applicable, their premium rate of pay (i.e., if they are entitled to premium pay whenever they work extra hours, and their duties as joint health and safety committee members take them beyond their usual hours of work) [section 9(35)].

Are committee members entitled to paid preparation time?

Each member will be paid for one hour of preparation time before every joint health and safety committee meeting. If it becomes apparent that one hour is not sufficient, the joint health and safety committee can decide that more paid preparation time is required [section 9(34)(a)].

Joint Health and Safety Committee Meetings

How often should the joint health and safety committee meet?

Joint health and safety committee members are required to meet at the workplace at least once every three months. More frequent meetings may be necessary, however, particularly in industries where the work involves hazardous substances or procedures [section 9(33)].

Who chairs the meeting?

Joint health and safety committee meetings must be co-chaired by two members. One of the co-chairs is chosen by the members who represent workers, the other by members who represent the employer [section 9(11)]. It is good practice to alternate the chairing of each meeting between the two chairs, although the joint health and safety committee may find other, more appropriate procedures.

How is an agenda prepared?

An agenda should be prepared by the co-chairs and distributed one week in advance of the meeting date. Members who wish to have items added to the agenda should give chairpersons ample notice.

How are committee members informed of upcoming meetings?

Meeting dates should be established on a pre-set schedule or at the conclusion of each joint health and safety committee meeting. This date will be recorded in the minutes of the meeting. A copy of the minutes should be distributed to members a few days after the meeting. The dates of upcoming meetings should also be recorded at the top of each agenda.

Is a quorum needed to hold a meeting?

Every meeting must have members present who represent the workers and the employer. Beyond that, the joint health and safety committee can determine its own rules for a quorum at meetings.

Must the minutes be recorded? What should the minutes include?

Minutes of each meeting must be recorded and available for review by a Ministry of Labour inspector [section 9(22)]. Minutes should contain details of all matters discussed, as well as a full description of problems and their resolution or any action deemed necessary. Minutes should identify members by title and not by name. (Members' names should be used only for attendance purposes.)

Minutes should be signed by the co-chairpersons and posted in the workplace within one week of the meeting.

[ 1 ] For example, an employee who has the authority to discipline, hire, fire or recommend discipline, hiring or firing is considered a managerial employee.

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