In this module, you will learn about the role of the policy health and safety committee, the local workplace health and safety committee and the health and safety representative in your workplace. The primary responsibility of these committees and of the representatives is to work in your best interests to ensure a healthy and safe work environment. They do so by advising on and recommending solutions to the employer, helping to prevent and control hazards, or responding to health and safety concerns that are raised. These committees and representatives are key to reducing the likelihood of injury or illness in your workplace.

By Employment and Social Development Canada

Topics include:

Module 3: Policy Committees, Workplace Committees and Health and Safety Representatives

Occupational health and safety (OHS) committees and representatives play a vital role in preventing work-related injuries and diseases and are an important part of what is called the internal responsibility system. This system, based on cooperation between employers and employees, improves the overall understanding of OHS issues in the workplace.

Health and safety committees and representatives

OHS is a shared responsibility. It can only be effectively carried out with cooperation and open communication among all workplace parties: management, unions and employees. OHS committees are composed of representatives of bargaining agents and management. A committee shall consist of at least two persons, and at least half of the members shall be employees who do not exercise managerial functions and who are selected by the trade union representing employees.

If a workplace has more than 300 employees, the Canada Labour Code, Part II, (the Code, Part II) requires that a policy committee be established. [Insert your department’s[1] name] has a National Policy Health and Safety Committee (NPHSC) located in [insert the location of this committee], where senior national bargaining agents and management work in collaboration to develop the [insert your department’s name] OHS program, policies and procedures, and address health and safety issues that are national in scope.

Regional Health and Safety Committees (RHSCs) are also in place in all [insert your department’s name] regional offices. RHSCs are made up of regional bargaining agents and management, and function as a subcommittee of the NPHSC. RHSCs address regional OHS issues and requirements and ensure that any issues that may have the potential to impact [insert your department’s name] nationally are raised to the NPHSC.

If the workplace has a total of 20 or more employees, a local workplace OHS committee is required. The workplace OHS committees shall consist of the workplace employees or bargaining agents and management. Workplace OHS committees deal with local issues and ensure that any regional or national issues are raised to the appropriate NPHSC.

In workplaces where there are fewer than 20 employees, one health and safety representative is required; the representative can be an employee or a bargaining agent. If a representative cannot be found from the bargaining agents, management shall assume the roles and responsibilities of the representative until such time that a bargaining agent representative can be found.

The employer is responsible for ensuring that the names of the members of the committee, or the name of the representative, are posted in a work location that is accessible to employees. In addition, the minutes of each OHS committee meeting and of the meetings between the OHS representative and management shall be posted for a period of three months, or until all action items are addressed.

Do you know if you have a workplace health and safety committee or a representative in your workplace?

Do you know how to raise a health and safety issue to your workplace health and safety committee or representative?

Duties and powers

Specific duties for OHS committees and representatives are outlined in the Code, Part II, under sections 134, 135 and 136. In summary, the duties and powers of the committees and representatives are as follows:

You are an important source of information about health and safety in your workplace and are required to cooperate with your committee members or representative when they are conducting their duties under the Code, Part II.

Quiz – Module 3: Policy Committees, Workplace Committees and Health and Safety Representatives

  1. When is there a legal requirement to have a policy committee in the department?
    1. When the department has more than one location
    2. When the department has over 300 employees
    3. When the department has over 500 employees
  2. When is there a legal requirement to have an OHS committee in the workplace?
    1. When there are 20 or more employees in the workplace
    2. When there are 19 or fewer employees in the workplace
    3. There is no requirement
  3. When is there a legal requirement to have an OHS representative in the workplace?
    1. When there are 20 or more employees in the workplace
    2. When there are 19 or fewer employees in the workplace
    3. There is no requirement
  4. Identify the duties of an OHS committee or representative.
    1. Take part in all health and safety inquiries, investigations, studies and inspections at the workplace, consulting as necessary with health and safety professionals or technical advisors
    2. Conduct monthly inspections, so that every part of the workplace is inspected once each year
    3. Have an active role in the disposing of all hazards in the workplace
    4. All of the above

Module 3: Going further than that…

You are invited to enhance your skills and knowledge by consulting the following.

Course by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

Event by the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS)

Links to reference material

 

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