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Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs)

  • Issued: May 4, 2018
  • Content last reviewed: May 2018
  • See also: Small business

Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help the workplace parties understand some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations. For further information please see full disclaimer.

A Health and Safety Representative (HSR) is required in workplaces with 6-19 workers.

This page is intended to assist HSRs, and employers who are required to have an HSR, in understanding the role of HSRs.

It also includes information about voluntary HSR training, which is available online.

The Internal Responsibility System

Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) sets out the rights and duties for occupational health and safety of all workplace parties.

One of the primary purposes of the OHSA is to facilitate a strong Internal Responsibility System (IRS) in the workplace. The IRS means that everyone in the workplace – employers, supervisors and workers - has a role to play in keeping workplaces safe and healthy.

The HSR acts as a link between workers and employers in supporting occupational health and safety at the workplace. As part of the IRS, the HSR helps prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths.

HSR and employer legislative requirements under the OHSA

In workplaces, including construction projects, at which the number of workers regularly exceeds five and at which no joint health and safety committee is required, employers or constructors must ensure that workers select a health and safety representative (HSR).

An HSR is selected by workers at the workplace from workers who do not exercise managerial functions or by the union if the workplace is unionized.

Key responsibilities and powers of HSRs under the OHSA include:

  • identifying actual and potential workplace hazards;
  • inspecting the workplace regularly;
  • being consulted about and being present at the beginning of health and safety related testing in the workplace;
  • making recommendations to the employer about health and safety in the workplace;
  • participating in investigation of work refusals;
  • inspecting the site of a critical injury or fatality at a workplace; and
  • obtaining health and safety related information from the employer.

Employers have a general duty under the OHSA to co-operate with the HSR to carry out their legislative functions. In particular, employers are required to:

  • provide any information that the HSR has the power to obtain from the employer;
  • respond to HSR recommendations in writing;
  • give the HSR copies of all written orders and reports issued by the MOL inspector;
  • report any workplace deaths, injuries and illnesses to the HSR; and
  • pay the HSR while they are performing their HSR duties.

Currently there are no specific requirements for HSR training under the OHSA.

More information about HSR requirements can be found in the OHSA and in the Ministry of Labour’s Guide to Joint Health and Safety Committees and Health and Safety Representatives in the Workplace

HSR basic training guidelines and eLearning program

A HSR plays an important role in supporting the IRS at a workplace. To be effective in carrying out their duties, HSRs should have a broad foundational occupational health and safety knowledge.

The MOL, in collaboration with health and safety system partners, developed a voluntary basic training program guideline and an accompanying basic training provider guideline, to assist employers and training providers in developing and delivering HSR training programs.

A voluntary one-day eLearning basic training program to assist HSRs in performing their legislative functions has also been developed through collaboration between the MOL and health and safety system partners. The training is available from these providers:

The HSR Basic Training Program and Provider guidelines and eLearning program may be useful for workplaces that require an HSR, regardless of sector, and cover the following topics:

  1. Occupational health and safety law;
  2. Rights, duties and responsibilities of the workplace parties;
  3. Duties and responsibilities of the HSR under the OHSA;
  4. Common workplace hazards;
  5. Hazard recognition, assessment, control, and evaluation (RACE methodology) of hazard controls;
  6. Applying the RACE methodology (recognize, assess, control and evaluate) to a workplace hazard; and
  7. Health and safety resources available to the workplace parties.

Many organizations offer specialized sector-specific HSR training programs and HSRs are encouraged to speak with employers to determine which training organization is best suited to the workplace.

Information for small businesses about their responsibilities under health and safety and employment standards laws.

Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA): Information for Health and Safety Representatives in construction

Public Services Health & Safety Association (PSHSA): Information on Small Business Health and Safety

Workplace Safety North (WSN): Information on Small Business Health and Safety

Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS): Duties of Health and Safety Representatives and employers and further information on the Small Business Centre homepage

Workers Health and Safety Centre (WHSC): Health and Safety Representative training

Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB): Information on Small Business health and safety programs

Disclaimer: This web resource has been prepared to assist the workplace parties in understanding some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the regulations. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation.

It is the responsibility of the workplace parties to ensure compliance with the legislation. This web resource does not constitute legal advice. If you require assistance with respect to the interpretation of the legislation and its potential application in specific circumstances, please contact your legal counsel.

While this web resource will also be available to Ministry of Labour inspectors, they will apply and enforce the OHSA and its regulations based on the facts as they may find them in the workplace. This web resource does not affect their enforcement discretion in any way.