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General Questions and Answers

  • Issued: April 20, 2012
  • Content last reviewed: April 2012

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.

Multi-workplace JHSC Definition

1. What is a multi-workplace JHSC?

A multi-workplace JHSC is a single JHSC, established and maintained for more than one workplace, each of which would normally require its own JHSC. Generally, this arrangement must be approved by order of the Minister (or his or her delegate) under subsection 9(3.1) of the OHSA. The Minister’s authority to permit a multi-workplace JHSC is currently delegated to the Regional Directors of the ministry.

Examples

  1. a) A city establishes a multi-workplace JHSC that represents separate work locations by a particular department in a large municipal government (e.g., multi-workplace JHSC covering parks and recreational facilities).
  2. b) A multi-workplace JHSC for workers belonging to the same union, working in separate schools for the same employer (e.g., unionised non-teaching staff in schools within the same school board). (Multi-workplace JHSCs in the education sector for teachers can be unique. See Appendix B for more details).

Minister's Order

2. Who has the power to issue a Minister’s order under subsection 9(3.1) of the OHSA?

Subsection 9(3.1) of the OHSA (see Appendix A) empowers the Minister (or delegate) to issue an order permitting an employer or constructor to establish and maintain one joint health and safety committee for more than one workplace or parts thereof, and the Minister may, in the order, provide for the composition, practice and procedure of any committee so established. This power has been delegated to the Regional Directors.

In exercising this power, the Minister (or delegate) must consider the factors outlined in subsection 9(5) of the OHSA (Appendix A).

3. How is an existing Minister’s order rescinded?

Any workplace party may write to the Regional Director to request that an existing order for a multi-workplace JHSC be rescinded. The Regional Director may contact workplace parties to discuss the rescinding of the Minister’s order. If the order is rescinded, the normal OHSA requirements respecting the establishment of JHSCs would apply, e.g., a JHSC would be required at every workplace of the employer at which twenty or more workers are regularly employed.

An inspector or other ministry representative who has concerns about the functioning of a multi-workplace JHSC, may also recommend that the Regional Director review the Minister’s order.

Definition of a workplace

4. What is a “workplace” for the purposes of the OHSA?

The OHSA defines a workplace as “any land, premises, location or thing at, upon, in or near which a worker works.”

Ministry of Labour policy is that “workplace” should be considered in the singular, rather than the plural. This means that geographically separate work sites, under the ownership or control of one employer, will generally be considered separate workplaces, meaning that each would be subject to the JHSC requirements of the OHSA if the conditions set out in subsection 9(2) of the OHSA were met. There will be cases where buildings that are separate but in very near proximity, could reasonably be considered to be one workplace for the purposes of the OHSA. These would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Listed below are some factors the workplace parties may consider when determining the extent of a workplace, and which could also inform a request for a Minister’s order. This is not an exclusive list.

  • the physical site or place where the workers work
  • the nature and extent of the area that can be considered near where a worker works
  • whether workers move between different buildings to perform their jobs
  • how the sites are managed or supervised
  • the workplace parties' views as to what the workplace comprises
  • any practices of the employer/constructor to comply with the requirements to have a JHSC which go beyond the statutory minimum.

Establishment of a Multi-workplace JHSC

5. How does an employer or constructor request a Minister’s order permitting a multi-workplace JHSC?

The employer/constructor must write to the MOL Regional Director to request approval for a multi-workplace JHSC. The employer’s/constructor’s request should include the following:

  • Proposed terms of reference that set out the committee’s structure, function and how it would operate
  • A written agreement indicating that the workplace parties support both the request for a multi-workplace JHSC and the proposed terms of reference, signed by the authorized employer’s/constructor’s representative and each trade union representative of the workers, if applicable, and/or a representative of workers who are not represented by a union.
  • Supporting information related to the points listed below, which the OHSA requires the Minister (or delegate) to consider when determining whether to approve a multi-workplace JHSC (subsection 9(5) – see Appendix A):
    1. a) the nature of the work being done
    2. b) the request of a constructor, an employer, a group of the workers or the trade union or trade unions representing the workers in a workplace
    3. c) the frequency of illness or injury in the workplace or in the industry of which the constructor or employer is a part
    4. d) the existence of health and safety programs and procedures in the workplace and the effectiveness thereof, and
    5. e) such other matters as the Minister considers advisable.

6. What will the MOL Regional Director do when a request to establish a multi-workplace JHSC is received?

The Regional Director will evaluate the request by:

  • reviewing all documents submitted by the employer/constructor (proposed terms of reference; signed agreement; supporting information)
  • consulting the workplace parties, and parties outside the workplace (for example, the inspector, manager or regional program co-ordinator), as appropriate.

Subsection 9(5) of the OHSA sets out what factors and information the Minister (or delegate) must consider when evaluating the request. Clause 9(5)(e) is a broad authority for the Minister (or delegate) to consider any other matters, not already specified in the OHSA that he or she considers advisable (Appendix A).

After the Regional Director’s review, an inspector may ask the employer/constructor to amend the request / submission, for example, by providing additional information.

All workplace parties will have a fair opportunity to make their views on the request known, and to respond to any concerns an inspector, manager or Regional Director may raise regarding the request.

7. How long does the Ministry’s review and approval process take?

After the Regional Director’s initial review, the employer/constructor may be asked to amend the request/submission or provide additional information. The length of time for the process varies. In general, the quality of the submission to the Ministry determines how long it takes to obtain a Minister’s order permitting a multi-workplace JHSC to be established.

8. Could several employers, operating companies independently of one another, in separate locations, establish a single multi-workplace JHSC if all companies are owned by a single corporation?

No. Distinct employers, even if linked by a common corporate owner, cannot jointly request a single, multi-workplace JHSC. Section 9 of the OHSA is based on a single employer having the responsibility to ensure a JHSC is established and maintained at that employer’s workplace.

The same would apply in the case of a group of franchisees, for example, a group of Tim Horton’s’ owner-operators. Each franchisee is a separate employer and each one has the employer’s responsibility to ensure a JHSC is established and maintained, if one is required.

9. Could several employers/constructors, operating independently but in the same premises, establish a single multi-workplace JHSC for the entire facility? (Example: an office building with several medical offices, a diagnostic lab, a government office, a drug store and a coffee shop.)

No. Every employer/constructor in the building is considered separately for the purposes of the OHSA, and has the responsibility to establish a JHSC, if required. If there are occupational health and safety issues that affect more than one employer in the same building, members of the affected JHSCs could attend one another’s meetings as guests. A building committee to deal with potential cross cutting building issues can be formed to address common issues experienced by JHSCs within the building complex.

In a government building that contains many ministries, a multi-workplace JHSC cannot be established that includes different ministries. Each ministry is considered a separate employer.

10. How can the ministry ensure workers are not coerced into supporting an application for a multi-workplace JHSC arrangement?

The Regional Director, or someone designated by him or her, may make inquiries to ensure workers understand the implications of a multi-workplace JHSC, support the proposed terms of reference for the committee and, understand the impact of signing the statement of agreement. Such inquiries may be especially important for non-unionized workers.

11. What is the status of multi-workplace committees that have not been approved by a Minister's order?

As a general matter, a Minister’s order permitting a multi-workplace JHSC is required for such an arrangement to be authorized under the OHSA.

Where an inspector becomes aware of a multi-workplace JHSC that has not been permitted by an order under subsection 9(3.1) of the OHSA, the employer/constructor will be advised to either apply for a multi-workplace JHSC through the Regional Director, or comply with requirements in subsections 9(2) and (4) of the OHSA to establish a JHSC at each workplace. The employer/constructor will typically be given a reasonable but short period of time to make their decision.

12. What is the inspector’s role in the processes to request, and to issue, a Minister’s order permitting a multi-workplace JHSC?

For workplace parties interested in establishing a multi-workplace JHSC, the inspector is often the first point of contact with the Ministry of Labour. An inspector who becomes aware of such an interest will refer the parties to the Regional Director, and generally advise them of the process to make a request and submission to the ministry.

During the review and approvals process, the Regional Director will consult the inspector(s), Manager and Regional Program Co-ordinator as part of evaluating the employer’s submission and request for a Minister’s order.

Once a multi-workplace JHSC has been set up, the inspector can ask to see a copy of the committee’s terms of reference in order to ensure the workplace is adhering to points agreed to by the parties and approved by the ministry.

The employer/constructor must keep a copy of the terms of reference for the multi-workplace JHSC at every workplace covered, rather than at one central site, to ensure the terms are readily available for the inspector’s review.

13. How does distance between workplaces affect a request for a multi-workplace joint health and safety committee? Is it a limiting factor?

Distance between workplaces can be a challenge to the effective functioning of a multi-workplace JHSC. The OHSA does not limit the establishment of a multi-workplace JHSC based on the distance between workplaces served by the committee. However, distance is a factor that Regional Directors typically will look at when determining whether to approve a request. An important consideration for a Regional Director is whether committee members can carry out their duties effectively and respond to workplace events in a timely manner.

In general, factors a Regional Director would consider include but are not limited to:

  • the locations of the workplaces to be served by the committee
  • how far apart the workplaces are
  • how long it would take committee members to travel to workplaces to perform their duties, such as participate in the investigation of an accident or work refusal, and,
  • the arrangements for travel and related costs provided by the employer.

Supporting Documentation

14. What should the proposed terms of reference include?

Appendix C contains a list of topics that should be included in the terms of reference for a multi-workplace JHSC. Generally speaking, the terms of reference should address all aspects of a committee’s structure and function including its composition; procedures for dealing with workplace events; administration, such as meetings; member selection; dispute resolution, etc.

15. Is the Minister’s order authorizing a multi-workplace JHSC a legally binding document?

A Minister’s order permitting a multi-site JHSC provides for the composition, practice and procedure of the committee (as proposed in the terms of reference). As it replaces the usual OHSA requirements respecting the establishment and operation of JHSCs, the employer/constructor and other workplace parties are bound by the terms of the Minister’s order.

16. Can the workplace parties amend an existing terms of reference for a multi-workplace JHSC without requesting approval from the Ministry of Labour?

No. If changes to the Terms of Reference are wanted by any signatory party to the original Terms, the parties should jointly submit the amended Terms for review and approval by the Ministry. New or changed sections of the amended Terms should be clearly identified. The parties should request permission for their multi-workplace JHSC to function in accordance with the amended Terms. When amended Terms of Reference are being considered, the Ministry may review all of the Terms, not just the areas of amendment, to ensure the approval of the multi-workplace JHSC remains appropriate. In most cases, the approval process and the issuing of a new order should take less time than the original request.

Examples of when the ministry would require workplace parties to request an amended order include:

  • expanding the arrangement to include additional workplaces
  • changing of the composition, structure and function of the JHSC
  • change of union representation for participation by another union
  • adding or changing specific sections of terms of reference.

If an amendment to an existing order is requested, the workplace parties are expected to re-negotiate their own agreement. If neutral third party assistance is needed for this purpose, the workplace parties can seek such services from the private sector.

In very limited circumstances, it may be possible to make minor changes to terms of reference without obtaining a new order under subsection 9(3.1). The workplace parties must always contact the Regional Director in writing in advance to see if a formal approval of a change to the terms and conditions is needed.

Multi-workplace JHSC Composition and Set-up

17. How many members is a multi-workplace JHSC required to have?

Subsection 9(6) of the OHSA sets out minimum requirements for the composition of a JHSC – at least two members if the workplace has fewer than 50 workers, and at least four members if there are 50 or more workers. At least half the members of the JHSC must be workers employed at the workplace who do not exercise managerial duties and/or functions.

In practice, most Minister’s orders made under subsection 9(3.1) require the committee to have more than the minimum number of worker and employer members to ensure that the committee can effectively exercise its powers and functions.

18. How many certified members is a multi-workplace JHSC required to have?

Subsection 9(12) of the OHSA requires an employer/constructor to ensure that a JHSC has at least two certified members, one representing the employer/constructor and one representing workers.

When exercising his/her discretion to determine the composition of a multi-workplace JHSC, the Minister (or Regional Director) may decide that more than two certified members are needed to ensure they can effectively exercise their powers and fulfil their roles on the committee. The size and location of workplaces served by the committee will be taken into consideration. In practice, most Minister’s orders made under subsection 9(3.1) provide for more than the minimum number of certified members on a multi-workplace JHSC.

19. What is a “designated worker” for the purposes of a multi-workplace JHSC?

In an order issued under subsection 9(3.1) of the OHSA, the Minister (or Regional Director) may specify that the members of a multi-workplace JHSC who represent workers may designate a worker who is not a member of the committee, at any of the workplaces served by the committee, to do the following:

  • inspect the physical condition of the workplace (subsection 9(23)); and
  • participate in the investigation of a work refusal, by exercising the rights and responsibilities that a committee member would normally have under clause 43(4)(a), and subsections (7), (11) and (12).

The worker members of a multi-workplace JHSC do not give up or lose their powers to carry out the above duties if they designate a worker under subsection 9(3.2).

A worker does not become a member of the multi-workplace JHSC as a result of being designated. However, he or she must comply with section 9 of the OHSA as if he or she is a member of the committee, and certain corresponding rights and entitlements of committee members also apply to a “designated worker”.

20. What training must an employer provide to a worker designated under subsection 9(3.2)(a) of the OHSA?

The employer must provide training to the designated worker to enable the worker to adequately perform the tasks that the worker members of the committee may have delegated to him or her, which are limited to performing workplace inspections and exercising a committee member’s rights and responsibilities with respect to work refusals.

Multi-workplace JHSC Functions

21. How do the responsibilities and duties of multi-workplace JHSC members differ from regular JHSC members?

The responsibilities and duties set out in the OHSA apply equally to multi-workplace JHSC members, with the understanding that any reference to “workplace” refers to each of the individual workplaces covered by the multi-workplace JHSC agreement.

22. What is the “workplace” with respect to required frequency of JHSC inspections for workplaces with a multi-workplace committee?

Each workplace covered by the multi-workplace JHSC is considered “the workplace” for the purposes of inspection frequency. The existence of a multi-workplace JHSC does not convert multiple workplaces into a single workplace. Inspection frequency is mandated by subsections 9(26) and 9(27) of the OHSA, which require that the workplace be inspected at least once a month and, if that is not practical, the entire workplace must be inspected at least once a year with at least part of the workplace inspected each month.

23. Can a multi-workplace JHSC use video conferencing or other technology to help carry out its functions?

Video-conferencing may be an effective way for members of a multi-workplace JHSC to communicate with one another, with other workplace parties, and to reduce some travel costs. As such, it may be a reasonable option for carrying out regular committee meetings. It will be up to the workplace parties to demonstrate that the use of video conferencing or other technology meets the requirements set out in the Terms of Reference.

Other Requirements

24. If an employer such as a municipality has an approved multi-workplace JHSC for all of its workplaces (e.g., town hall office, public works garage, recreational facilities, etc.), is a separate JHSC or H&S representative required if the employer undertakes a construction project?

Yes. Approval of a multi-workplace JHSC is only valid according to the terms of the Minister’s order issued under subsection 9(3.1). If an employer with a functioning multi-workplace JHSC were to establish a new construction project not in the original approval, the normal requirements of the OHSA would apply.

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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.