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Part II: Administration

  • Revised: March 20, 2015
  • Content last reviewed: March 2015
  • Also available in Spanish [PDF, 729 Kb / 82 pages ]

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.

Part II relates to the administration of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and covers the requirements setting out the creation, selection, powers, rights and obligations of the joint health and safety committee and health and safety representatives.

Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSCs)

A joint health and safety committee is a workplace committee comprised of worker and management representatives. At least half of the members of the JHSC must be workers (selected by workers or by the trade union(s) that represent the workers) employed at the workplace and that do not exercise managerial duties. This committee has various powers, including monitoring health and safety in the workplace, identifying hazards in the workplace, and recommending health and safety improvements where and when required.

The committee is authorized to hold meetings and conduct regular workplace inspections and make written recommendations to the employer for the improvement of the health and safety of workers.

Part II outlines the requirements of the Act regarding committees. More detailed information is available in the Guide for Joint Health and Safety Committees and Health and Safety Representatives in the Workplace, available on the Ministry of Labour internet website.

The Function and Power of the JHSC

The JHSC has several important functions and powers which enable the committee to support the IRS and ensure it is functioning effectively.

Identify Workplace Hazards

One of the main purposes of the JHSC is to identify workplace hazards, such as machinery, substances, production processes, working conditions, procedures or anything else that can endanger the health and safety of workers [clause 9(18)(a)]. To a large extent, this purpose is met by carrying out inspections of the workplace. It may obtain and review specified types of information (e.g. information identifying potential or existing hazards) from the employer so that corrective action can be recommended.

Unless otherwise required by Regulation or an inspector’s order, the Act requires that a designated member of the committee, who represents workers, inspect the workplace at least once a month. In some cases, this may not be practical. For example, the workplace may be too large and complex to be inspected fully each month. Where it is impractical to conduct monthly inspections, the committee must establish an inspection schedule that will ensure that at least part of the workplace is inspected each month and the entire workplace is inspected at least once a year [subsections 9(26), (27) and (28)].

Obtain Information from the Employer

For most committees, the employer is likely to be an important source of information.

Be Consulted about Workplace Testing

If the employer intends to do specified testing in or about the workplace that is related to occupational health and safety, the joint health and safety committee has the right to be consulted before the testing takes place. A designated member of the JHSC representing workers may also be present at the beginning of such testing if the committee believes that his or her presence is necessary to ensure that valid testing procedures are used or to ensure that test results are valid [clause 9(18)(f)].

Make Recommendations to the Employer

The committee has the power to make recommendations to the employer and to the workers on ways to improve workplace health and safety. For example, the committee could recommend that a new type of hearing protection be given to workers in noisy areas, or that safety training programs be established, or that special testing of the work environment be carried out [clauses 9(18)(b) and (c)].

If the committee has failed to reach a consensus about making recommendations after trying to reach a consensus in good faith to do so, either co-chair of the committee has the power to make written recommendations to the constructor or the employer.

The employer must provide a written response within 21 calendar days, to any written recommendations from the committee or co-chair. If the employer agrees with the recommendations, the response must include a timetable for implementation. For example, if the employer agrees that a special training program should be established, the response must say when the program will begin to be developed and when it will be delivered. If the employer disagrees with a recommendation, the response must give the reasons for disagreement [subsections 9(20) and (21)].

Investigate Work Refusals

The committee members who represent workers must designate one of their group to be present at the investigation of a work refusal. For more information, see Part V - The Right to Refuse or to Stop Work Where Health and Safety in Danger.

Investigate Critical Injuries or Fatalities

The members of a committee who represent workers must designate one or more worker members to investigate cases in which a worker is killed or critically injured at a workplace. The designated member(s) may (subject to subsection 51(2) of the Act) inspect the place where the accident occurred and any machine, device, etc. and report his or her findings to a Director and the committee [subsection 9(31)].

Obtain Information from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board

In workplaces which are subject to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (WSIA), at the request of the employer, a worker, committee, health and safety representative or trade union, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) must provide the employer with an annual summary of information about the employer [subsection 12(1)]. This information must include:

  • number of work-related fatalities
  • number of lost time injuries
  • number of workdays lost
  • number of injuries requiring medical aid but that did not involve lost workdays
  • incidence of occupational illnesses, and
  • number of occupational injuries.

The WSIB can include any other information it considers necessary.

When this report is received from the WSIB, an employer must post it in a conspicuous place(s) in the workplace, where it is likely to be seen by the workers.

Employer's Duty to Co-operate with the Committee

Under the Act, an employer has a general duty to co operate with and help the joint health and safety committee to carry out its functions [clause 25(2)(e)]. In particular, the employer is required to:

  • provide any information that the committee has the power to obtain from the employer
  • respond to committee recommendations in writing, as described earlier (subsection 9(20))
  • give the committee copies of all written orders and reports issued by the Ministry of Labour inspector and (subsection 57(10), and
  • report any workplace deaths, injuries and illnesses to the committee. (subsection 52(1)).

In addition to the above noted duties, the employer must provide notices to the committee related to death and injury, accident, explosion, fire or violence causing injury, occupational illness, and accidents at a project site or mine (see Part VII – Notices).

The employer must also advise the committee of the results of an assessment of risks of workplace violence [section 32.0.3] and provide the results of any report on occupational health and safety that is in the employer’s possession [clause 25(2)(l)]. Where the report is in writing, the employer must provide the committee with the portions of the report that relate to occupational health and safety.

Certified Members of Committees

A “certified” member of a joint health and safety committee is a member who has received specialized training in occupational health and safety and has been certified by the Chief Prevention Officer under the OHSA as of April 1, 2012.

Prior to April 1, 2012 JHSC members were certified by the WSIB under the WSIA. Those certifications are still recognized under the OHSA.

The certified member plays an important role on the committee and in the workplace and possesses specific powers under the OHSA.

In general, constructors and employers are required to ensure that joint health and safety committees in their workplaces have at least two certified members (one representing workers and one representing the employer/constructor). Subsection 9(13) and O. Reg. 385/96 specify exceptions to this general certification requirement.

More detailed information is available in A Guide for Joint Health and Safety Committees and Health and Safety Representatives in the Workplace.

Worker Trades Committees on Construction Projects

In addition to the above rules about JHSCs, there are special rules for the establishment and operation of worker trades committees on construction projects of specified size and duration.

  • All members of the worker trades committee are chosen by the workers in the trade represented by the committee, or by their union where applicable [subsection 10(3)].
  • Worker trades committees are required on projects that regularly employ 50 or more workers and are expected to last at least three months [subsection 10(1)].

It is the responsibility of the JHSC at the construction project, not of the employer or constructor, to establish the worker trades committee. The OHSA requires that the worker trades committee represent workers employed in each of the trades in the workplace and that the members of this committee are to be selected by the workers, who are employed in the trades that the members are to represent, or by the representative trade union (where applicable).

What are the functions of the worker trades committee?

The worker trades committee has the sole function of informing the JHSC of any health and safety concerns of workers who are employed in the trades in the workplace.

Health and Safety Representatives

Not all workplaces are required to have a joint health and safety committee. In most small workplaces, a health and safety representative of the workers is required instead of a committee. This section outlines the provisions of the Act that cover health and safety representatives.

A health and safety representative is required at a workplace or construction project where the number of workers in the workplace regularly exceeds five, and where there is no joint health and safety committee required [subsection 8(1)]. The health and safety representative must be chosen by the workers who do not exercise managerial functions and who will be represented by the representative, or by the union if there is one [subsection 8(5)].

MOL is of the view that the workers do not need to all be physically present in the workplace at the same time for the purposes of determining if the number of workers in the workplace regularly exceeds the statutory threshold.

Health and safety representatives have many of the same powers as joint health and safety committee members, except for the power to stop work. If you are a health and safety representative, please read the previous section on Joint Health and Safety Committees, and also refer to A Guide for Joint Health and Safety Committees and Health and Safety Representatives in the Workplace.

The Function and Powers of the Health and Safety Representative

A health and safety representative has the following powers:

Identify Workplace Hazards

The health and safety representative has the power to identify workplace hazards and make recommendations or report his or her findings to the employer, workers and relevant trade union(s) (if any). This power is usually exercised by conducting workplace inspections.

Unless otherwise required by the regulations or by an inspector’s order, the representative must inspect the physical condition of the workplace at least once a month [subsection 8(6)]. If it is not practical, for some reason, to inspect the entire workplace once a month, at least part of it must be inspected monthly, following a schedule agreed upon by the representative and the employer/constructor. The entire workplace must be inspected at least once a year [subsections 8(7) and (8)].

The constructor, employer and workers are required to give the representative any information and assistance needed to carry out these inspections [subsection 8(9)].

Obtain Information from the Employer

Under the Act an employer has a general duty to co operate with and help the health and safety representative to carry out his or her functions [clause 25(2)(e)]. The health and safety representative has the power to obtain information from the constructor or employer concerning tests, if any, on equipment, machine, agents, etc. in the workplace. This power is reinforced by the employer’s duty to assist and cooperate with the health and safety representative in the carrying out of his/her functions, to advise the health and safety representative of the results of an assessment of risks of workplace violence and provide a copy of the assessment if it is in writing [section 32.0.3], and to provide the health and safety representative with the results of a report on occupational health and safety [clause 25(2)(l)].

Be Consulted about Workplace Testing

If the employer intends to do specified testing in or about the workplace that is related to occupational health and safety, the representative has the right to be consulted before the testing takes place. He or she may also be present at the beginning of such testing if the representative believes that his or her presence is necessary to ensure that valid testing procedures are used or to ensure that test results are valid [clause 8(11)(b)].

Make Recommendations to the Employer

The representative has the power to make recommendations to the employer on ways to improve workplace health and safety – the same power given to joint health and safety committees.

The constructor or employer must respond in writing, within 21 calendar days, to any written recommendations [subsection 8(12)].

Investigate Work Refusals

The health and safety representative must be present at the employer’s investigation of a work refusal unless another worker, who has been selected by a trade union or the workers in the workplace to represent them in work refusal investigations, is present. For more information, see Part V – Right to Refuse or to Stop Work Where Health and Safety in Danger in this Guide.

Investigate Serious Injuries

If a worker is killed or critically injured on the job, the representative has the power to inspect the scene where the injury occurred and any machine, device, thing, etc. subject to subsection 51(2) of the OHSA. His or her findings must be reported in writing to a Director of the Ministry of Labour [subsection 8(14)].

Request Information from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)

In workplaces to which the WSIA applies, the health and safety representative has the power to request specified types of information from the WSIB (e.g. number of employer’s work-related fatalities, number of employer’s lost workdays). This same power is available to a joint health and safety committee member. When this information is received from the WSIB, an employer must post it in the workplace, in a conspicuous location(s) where it is likely to be seen by the workers [subsection 12(1)].

More detailed information is available in A Guide for Joint Health and Safety Committees and Health and Safety Representatives in the Workplace.

Employer's Duty to Co operate with the Health and Safety Representative

Under the Act, an employer has a general duty to co operate with and help the health and safety representative to carry out functions [clause 25(2)(e)]. In particular, the employer is required to:

  • provide any information that the health and safety representative has the power to obtain from the employer
  • respond to health and safety representative recommendations in writing, as described earlier [subsection 8(12)]
  • give the health and safety representative copies of all written orders and reports issued by the Ministry of Labour inspector, and (subsection 57(10), and
  • report any workplace deaths, injuries and illnesses to the health and safety representative [subsection 52(1)].

In addition to the above noted duties, the employer must provide notices related to death and injury, accident, explosion, fire or violence causing injury, occupational illness, and accidents at a project site or mine. (see Part VII – Notices).

The employer must also advise the health and safety representative of the results of an assessment of risks of workplace violence [section 32.0.3] and provide the results of any report on occupational health and safety that is in the employer’s possession [clause 25(2)(l)]. Where the report is in writing, the employer must provide the health and safety representative with the portions of the report that relate to occupational health and safety.

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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.