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Step 4: You Are Not Alone

Note: This document does not constitute legal advice. To determine your rights and obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA or the Act) and its regulations, please contact your legal counsel or refer to the legislation.

Getting the help you need

Many supervisors are promoted to that position because they were good at their previous job. They learned as much as they could about that job, the hazards involved and how to work safely. They knew how to do their work in a safe and healthy way. But they may not be too sure about what’s involved in supervising work. Now they are a supervisor and their duties have changed. But do they know everything they need to know about this new role?

That’s the question you should ask yourself. You may know a bit about the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the various Regulations that are attached to it, but do you know enough about the specific requirements in the OHSA and about which of its Regulations apply to your workplace? You may have the necessary experience in the work you are being called upon to supervise, but do you know enough about what’s actually involved in supervising workers?

Think back to what you learned in Step 1. You were told that the OHSA requires the employer to make sure that the supervisor is a "competent person." It's the employer's job to see to it that you have what you need to do your job competently. The OHSA emphasizes three things in particular that you need in order to be competent at your job. What are those three things?

The OHSA says you need you need specific knowledge, training and experience such as:

  • Knowledge about the work, how it's done and the hazards involved.
  • The necessary training to do the job correctly and be skilled at it. This includes being familiar with the OHS Act and the Regulations that apply to the work you're supervising.
  • The experience that will enable you to plan and monitor the work.

We have reviewed various duties the OHSA assigns to you as a supervisor. If you feel that you don't have the necessary knowledge, training and experience to carry out those duties, it's important that you talk to the employer. Tell him or her you are happy to be a supervisor, but that you need more information and training in certain areas to do your job. Perhaps you need to attend a training course on the OHSA and Regulations. Maybe you need to learn more about how to recognize, assess and control hazards and to evaluate the hazard controls. Maybe you want to know more about leadership skills and communication, about how to develop your listening skills and about what the workers expect from their supervisor. Don't hesitate to ask the employer for help if you feel that you don't know enough about something.

Even when you have the necessary knowledge, training and experience to be a competent supervisor, fixing a health and safety problem will sometimes be out of your control. Maybe it’s a hazard that affects the whole staff. Or it might cost a lot of money to fix it and you may not be able to approve that expense. If that happens, you need to let your employer know that you need help with solving the problem. Bring the ideas you got from the workers and from the health and safety rep or committee. Together you can figure out the best way to eliminate or control the hazard. The workers need to know that you will do what’s right for them, and you need to know that the employer will do what’s right for everyone.

The OHSA supports a coordinated approach to workplace health and safety by giving everybody duties according to their position at the workplace. The higher your position is, the more duties you have. When you put all of these duties together, you get a strong IRS in the workplace.

Where else to go for help

Getting Help Inside Your Workplace

Sometimes a worker will come to you with a question and you just don’t know the answer. Often the answer is right there in your workplace. You can find answers in the workplace health and safety policies and procedures, the safety data sheets that come with hazardous materials, the operating manuals for equipment or the recommendations of the JHSC or health and safety representative.

Can you think of other good sources right in your workplace for specific health and safety information?

You can find more health and safety information in your workplace at the following sources:

  • The employer’s health and safety program and procedures. The program is focused on the particular hazards in your workplace. The procedures to deal with those hazards may contain the answer you're looking for. You can ask your health and safety coordinator or employer for this information.
  • If the problem is about hazardous materials such as chemicals, consult the workplace's material safety data sheet or MSDS for information on how to deal safely with those materials. The employer is required to make that information available in the workplace.
  • The operator's manual for the equipment that's operated by the workers contains useful health and safety information. If no manual is available for the workers, the supervisor can contact the manufacturer for information.
  • The joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative. It's a good practice to take the time to read the committee minutes and recommendations and to talk to the health and safety rep or committee.
  • Inspection and incident reports. The problem may have cropped up in the past, or there may be something in one of the reports that leads to an effective solution.
  • Other supervisors, if there are any. They might have encountered the same problem and have some good ideas on how to deal with it.
  • The OHSA and Regulations provide lots of valuable information on health and safety. The employer is required to post a copy of the OHSA and Regulations in the workplace.

Sometimes you might not understand what the OHSA and Regulations are telling you to do, and even your employer might not fully understand. That's when you need outside help. For example, the Ministry of Labour website offers many helpful resources, including a downloadable Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act that provides a plain language explanation of the various parts of the Act.

Ontario has a health and safety “system” that’s made up of many organizations. The information below explains more about who they are.

Ontario’s Health and Safety System Partners

Ministry of Labour

Develops, communicates and enforces occupational health and safety requirements and employment standards. Develops, coordinates and implements strategies to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses and can set standards for health and safety training.
Call toll-free: 1-877-202-0008

Workers Health & Safety Centre

An occupational health and safety training centre for workers, representatives and employers.
Call toll-free: 1-888-869-7950

Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers

Six medical clinics located across Ontario that provide occupational health services and information.
Call toll-free: 1-877-817-0336

Health & Safety Ontario

Four health and safety associations that provide sector specific consulting, training, products and services.

  • Infrastructure Health and Safety Association – serves electrical, construction and transportation sectors.
    Call toll-free: 1-800-263-5024
  • Public Services Health and Safety Association – serves health, education and municipal sectors.
    Call toll-free: 1-877-250-7444
  • Workplace Safety North – serves mining, pulp and paper and forestry sectors.
    Call toll-free: 1-888-730-7821
  • Workplace Safety and Prevention Services – serves industrial, farming and service sectors.
    Call toll-free: 1-877-494-9777

Workplace Safety and Insurance Board

Administers Ontario’s no-fault workplace insurance for employers and their workers.
Call toll-free: 1-800-387-0750

All of the above organizations are part of Ontario’s health and safety system.

Another place you can go for information is the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. They have information fact sheets on their website. If you are having trouble finding information, you can ask questions by telephone at 1-800-668-4284, or through their website.

The help you can get from these external sources is not just for you – it’s for sharing with others in your workplace. That’s what the OHSA expects you to do. To be a good supervisor you have to do more than just know things, you have to put what you know into action. Prevention starts here, but it doesn't end here.

To help you understand how Ontario’s prevention system works together to help create safer workplaces, try to match the following list of organizations to their purpose.

Organization

  1. Ministry of Labour
  2. Health & Safety Ontario
  3. Workplace Safety and Insurance Board
  4. Workers Health & Safety Centre
  5. Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers

Purpose

  1. Health and safety training
  2. Enforcement of the OHSA
  3. Medical clinics for injured or sick workers
  4. Insurance benefits for injured or sick workers
  5. Occupational health and safety consulting, training, products and services

Answers:

  1. B
  2. E
  3. D
  4. A
  5. C

Step 4 Quiz

Before we move on to Step 5, here’s a short true-or-false quiz on the material we have just covered.

TRUE or FALSE?

  1. To be a competent supervisor, it's good enough to know that the Occupational Health and Safety Act exists and that various Regulations are attached to the OHSA.
  2. If fixing a health and safety problem is out of your control for any reason, you need to bring the problem to the employer.
  3. The company health and safety program and procedures, material safety data sheets, inspection and incident reports are all good sources for answers to health and safety questions from workers and supervisors.
  4. The Ministry of Labour's only purpose is to inspect workplaces and enforce the OHSA and Regulations.

Answers to Step 4 Quiz

  1. False. You need to know and understand the specific laws in the OHSA relating to the various duties and roles of people in the workplace, and you need to know and understand the specific Regulations that apply to your workplace.
  2. True. Bring along any ideas for solutions that you got from the workers and the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative.
  3. True.
  4. False. The Ministry of Labour also provides lots of information and guidance on health and safety on its website, and it develops plans and strategies to help make workplaces safer.

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