Message from the Co-Chairs of the Service-Wide Committee on Occupational Health and Safety

The Service-Wide Committee on Occupational Health and Safety (SWOHS) is pleased to provide departments[1] of the core public administration and separate agencies with a new health and safety training package for employees.

In May 2018, SWOHS recognized that departments and agencies were using a variety of training strategies to educate employees about their roles and responsibilities with regard to occupational health and safety (OHS). While many were effective, consistency across the public service was severely lacking. As a result, SWOHS mandated that a subcommittee be formed to explore OHS training with the goal of developing a common and consistent curriculum, which could be implemented by departments and agencies.

Members of the OHS learning subcommittee brought their knowledge, expertise and experiences together to develop comprehensive health and safety training modules for employees. The goal was to establish common and consistent knowledge and competencies across the public service.

This training package includes the duties, roles, responsibilities and requirements as they pertain to health and safety. The modules cover the minimum training requirements under the Canada Labour Code, Part II. Departments are encouraged to provide supplementary and job-specific training, as required, to ensure that employees receive the necessary information and instruction to protect their health and safety at work.

In order to optimize employee engagement, ensure that the OHS policy committee (where applicable) and the workplace health and safety committee or the health and safety representative are involved in your training implementation plan.

Departments with equivalent training material for employees may continue using it, provided that it covers the minimum content included in the basic health and safety training.

We trust that this training package is useful and assists in meeting the minimum legislative requirements for health and safety training for employees.

Yours in safety,


Renée de Bellefeuille,                 Fabian Murphy,
SWOHS Co-chair (employer)    SWOHS Co-chair (employee) 


Working group: list of members
This training package was developed with the collaboration of the following participants:

Béland, Marc            Public Service Alliance of Canada
Christianson, Bruce    Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Filteau, Guy   Canada School of Public Service
Gilbert, Catherine   Joint Learning Program
Gosselin-Dubois, Jean-Félix   National Joint Council
Lavergne, Chantal    Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
Le, David   National Joint Council
Lépine, Roxanne   Joint Learning Program
Lord, Jolee   Employment and Social Development Canada
Mackenzie, Laura   National Joint Council
Murphy, Fabian   Public Service Alliance of Canada
Nicholson, Katrina   Natural Resources Canada
St-Jean, Denis   Public Service Alliance of Canada


Credit to Fisheries and Oceans Canada

The present training package was inspired by Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Occupational Health and Safety Awareness Training for employees. The awareness training was initially developed in 2001 and was updated in 2016. In the spirit of gaining a robust and complete overview of OHS requirements in a federal public service work environment, the OHS learning working group has suggested adding information.

Target audience

This training package should also be offered to all employees every three years.

Length of this training package

To be determined by the department.

Delivery methods and materials

Departments are invited to determine appropriate training methods based on internal expertise, instructor capability, cost, availability, and urgency.

Training can be delivered online, in a classroom, in a hybrid form or via webinar.

Training materials can be job aids, videos, scenarios, checklists, or podcasts.

Training objectives

The purpose of this course is to help participants become familiar with their roles and responsibilities.

This training package has been specifically developed to give employees of (insert your department’s name), practical and helpful information about workplace health and safety.

The main objectives are to ensure that employees have training in the following areas:

This training package is made up of 10 modules. Each module ends with a short quiz, which employees will be required to complete.

Once the employees have completed all modules:

The goal of training is to help employees and other parties develop and achieve the knowledge, skills and ability to perform their work in a manner that reduces the risk of harm from work-related hazards.

Effective health and safety training

We have all been there – trapped in a cold, windowless room with 50 of our nearest and dearest colleagues, listening to a presenter drone on about who knows what. It’s not always easy to lead a training session or sit through one. We are all busy people who want to go about our work. So how can one ensure effective health and safety training?

Below are Top 10 Tips to consider when developing and delivering training that will set you up for success!



1. Engage and know your audience

Identify your target audience and tailor your training to meet their needs. Training is about them, not you! Use the health and safety training package and provide additional and job-specific training as required.

2. Determine the most effective method of training delivery

Through consultation with the National Policy Health and Safety Committee and workplace health and safety committees, determine the most effective method of delivering training within your department. One size doesn’t fit all!

Classroom training provides background information about health and safety topics and should be combined with hands-on training and demonstration. Health and safety training requires ‘doing’ to have the greatest impact and ensure engagement. 

Question and answer sessions are a great way to keep employees involved and active in their training. Such sessions also encourage employees to think about how to use what they learned in their everyday work. If classroom training is not possible, consider alternative methods of effective delivery (e.g., online training, blended learning, webinars, job aids, videos).

3. Provide the proper training materials

Health and safety training should be methodical, and materials should be presented in order of priority (e.g., legislative requirements, rights, roles, responsibilities; the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS); fire safety; site-specific information). A notice that reminds employees of the steps to complete a job makes it easier for employees to use their knowledge.

4. Use real-life incidents as examples

The audience will retain the information more if they are provided with real-life examples they can relate to. Incorporate these wherever possible.

5. Ensure that employees understand the training

Since there may be a lot of new information to absorb, consider spreading out the training so that employees aren’t struggling to memorize the information. Keep employees’ minds fresh and engaged for an optimal learning experience.

Adults retain only a certain percentage of information received:

  • lecture (5%)
  • reading (10%)
  • demonstration (30%)
  • group (50%)
  • practice and doing (experiential) (75%)

6. Provide interactive tools to evaluate knowledge and competencies

Include interactive tools, such as what-ifs, quizzes and brief tests, to evaluate knowledge and competency.

7. Ensure communication and feedback

Ensure that employee training programs are widely communicated so that employees are aware of the mandatory training requirements within your department.

Keep communication open so that employees can be comfortable learning and giving their feedback. 

Employee feedback is important to understanding their needs and preferred learning style. Be open to re-evaluating training effectiveness and make necessary adjustments to achieve optimal performance.

8. Apply changes when necessary

The biggest learning experiences happen in the moment.

Apply changes to learning in light of incidents, accidents, illnesses and injuries. 

Health and safety training is not just about attending classes!

9. Follow up and monitor employee progress

Training does not stop once it has been delivered.

Learning is ongoing and employee progress should be monitored.

Give feedback to management about how employees adapt to health and safety training and identify any gaps.

Supervisors should talk to employees about how they do their jobs and ask them to confirm their knowledge of the best safety practices.

10. Document and retain training records

Provide a certificate or acknowledgement of training completion to demonstrate knowledge, legislative compliance and due diligence.

Ensure training documents are retained and readily available to meet your legislative obligations.


Key points

[1] In this training package, “department” is generally used to refer to federal departments and agencies.