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Roles and Responsibilities

Worker Health and Safety Representatives

What responsibilities and authority does a health and safety representative have?

Generally speaking, a health and safety representative has the same responsibilities and powers as a joint health and safety committee member (which are described in the next section). These include the responsibility to inspect the workplace at least once a month [section 8(6)], and the power to:

  • identify workplace hazards [section 8(10)];
  • be consulted about workplace testing [section 8(11)];
  • make recommendations to the employer [section 8(10)]; and
  • investigate work refusals [section 43(4)] and serious accidents [section 8(14)].

Joint Health and Safety Committees

What are the committee's principal functions?

The joint health and safety committee has four principal functions: to identify potential hazards, to evaluate these potential hazards, to recommend corrective action, and to follow up on implemented recommendations. To carry out its functions, the joint health and safety committee is required to hold meetings [section 9(33)] and carry out regular inspections of the workplace [sections 9(26), 9(27) and 9(28)].

Generally speaking, all joint health and safety committee members should be available to receive worker concerns, complaints and recommendations; to discuss problems and recommend solutions; and to provide input into existing and proposed health and safety programs.

How often must workplace inspections be carried out?

Regular inspections help to identify hazards and prevent accidents. The workplace must be inspected at least once a month, unless a different schedule of inspections is ordered by the Ministry of Labour [section 9(26)]. In cases where the workplace is too large or where parts are shut down on a seasonal basis, the joint health and safety committee should establish a monthly inspection schedule that ensures the entire workplace will be inspected at least once a year [section 9(27)].

Who carries out workplace inspections?

Joint health and safety committee members who represent workers must select someone in their group to inspect the workplace [section 9(23)]. Where a certified member is required on the joint health and safety committee, the person selected to inspect the workplace should, if possible, be a certified member [section 9(24)]. Where the joint health and safety committee has been established by an order of the Minister of Labour, under section 9(3.1), the joint health and safety committee members may designate a worker who is not on the joint health and safety committee to do the inspection. When a real or potential hazard is discovered, it must be reported to the joint health and safety committee [section 9(30)].

Do certified members have added responsibilities?

Because certified members receive special training in workplace health and safety, they are given added responsibilities. For example, certified employer and worker representatives can, under certain circumstances, act together and order the employer to stop work that is dangerous to a worker [section 45(4)].

Employer

What are the employer's responsibilities regarding worker health and safety representatives and joint health and safety committees?

Employer responsibilities include informing the health and safety representative or joint health and safety committee of any work-related accidents involving injury, death or occupational illness [sections 51 and 52], and providing the health and safety representative or joint health and safety committee with the results of any reports relating to health and safety in the workplace [section 25(2)(l)].

The employer must provide a location for joint health and safety committee meetings [section 25(2)(e)]. The employer must also choose the managerial member or members of the joint health and safety committee. These members must exercise managerial functions, and, if possible, do so at the workplace where the joint health and safety committee is located [section 9(9)].

Must an employer act on recommendations made by a health and safety representative or joint health and safety committee?

The employer must provide a written response to recommendations within 21 days [sections 8(12) and 9(20)]. If the recommendations are accepted, a timetable for action must be outlined and provided to the health and safety representative or joint health and safety committee [sections 8(13) and 9(21)]. If an employer decides against acting on the recommendations, reasons must be given in writing [sections 8(13) and 9(21)].

Ministry of Labour Inspectors

What is the role of Ministry of Labour inspectors?

Ministry of Labour inspectors uphold and enforce the Occupational Health and Safety Act ("OHSA" or "the Act"). They inspect the workplace and investigate potentially hazardous situations, accidents and work refusals. An inspector may issue orders where there is a contravention of the Act, and may provide advice where there are disputes between workplace parties.

Appendix C lists powers Ministry of Labour inspectors have under the "the Act".

What contact will health and safety representatives and joint health and safety committee members have with the inspector?

A health and safety representative or joint health and safety committee member must be offered a chance to accompany the inspector on all inspections and investigations [section 54(3)]. When orders are issued by the inspector to an employer, the employer must give a copy of the orders to the representative or joint health and safety committee [section 57(10)]. Inspectors are entitled to review the minutes of joint health and safety committee meetings [section 9(22)], and are expected to do so. Inspectors may attend joint health and safety committee meetings when invited by members.

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