Joint health and safety committees fulfill an important role in supporting health and safety in their workplaces. They offer workers an opportunity to exercise their right to participate and are a requirement for some employers.
Worker and employer representatives on health and safety committees work with the employer to raise awareness of health and safety issues in the workplace, recognize and identify workplace hazards and develop recommendations for the employer to address these hazards.
If you are an employer of a workplace with 20 or more regularly employed workers, you have to set up and maintain a health and safety committee with both employer and worker representatives. Each committee must have at least four members, half of whom are chosen by workers or by their union. Worker representatives must have no managerial roles in that workplace.
A worker and an employer co-chair must be chosen by their respective representatives to equally share responsibilities of the committee, including alternating as chair during meetings. Meetings must be held during regular working hours once each month or more frequently when required.
Employers with smaller workplaces, where there are 5-19 regularly employed workers, may choose to have a health and safety committee, but they are not required to have one. However, they are still required to have a worker health and safety representative who has a similar role to the health and safety committee. This representative must also be chosen by workers and have no managerial roles in that workplace.
Employers must allow committee members, co-chairs and representatives time away from their regular work for any required orientation, training or committee work. This is considered work time that workers must be paid for.
Employers also have to post the names of committee members and representatives so everyone in the workplace has access to them and knows who to talk to about health and safety questions or concerns.
Committee and representative duties
Specific duties of the health and safety committee/worker health and safety representative include:
- receiving, considering and making recommendations to the employer or prime contractor on concerns or complaints with regards to health and safety;
- participating in the identification of hazards;
- advising the employer on the development and promotion of measures to protect safety;
- participating in inspections;
- participating in investigations of serious incidents and refusals to work;
- maintaining records with regards to their duties;
- co-operating with any person exercising duties under the legislation; and
- see Sections 38 and 39 of the Workers' Safety and Compensation Act for other prescribed duties.
Employers, or prime contractors if applicable, must orient committee members, co-chairs and representatives to their duties within 30 days of being selected for these roles.
Within 6 months of choosing the co-chairs and representatives, employers must ensure that these individuals are trained to competently perform their duties.
Employers must also make sure that at least one worker representative is completely trained to participate in investigations of serious incidents, injuries, deaths and refusals of unsafe work. This training must be completed within 6 months of joining the committee.
Employers are responsible for all costs of orientation and training for committee members and representatives.