The Importance of JHSC in Workplace Safety
The Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) is a forum where employer and worker members can act together to identify, assess, control, and evaluate health and safety hazard controls. It is, therefore, an essential part of the internal responsibility system. Let’s dive into the importance of JHSC in the following blog.
Certified members work closely with other JHSC members. Because of their duties and responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), certified members will have a special relationship with their opposite certified members.
Although certified members may interact less formally with other members of the JHSC, their training will make them a valued resource for committee activities. They will also be responsible to the employer or worker group they represent. It is essential that certified members have a good understanding of the functions, duties, rights, and authority of the JHSC.
The OHSA sets out several very specific functions for JHSCs. They add up to an overall objective of identifying and evaluating hazards and recommending action on health and safety issues. To do its job, the committee needs the full commitment of both workplace parties to the spirit as well as the letter of the law. It is especially important that the employer’s health and safety policy and programs recognize a key role for the JHSC.
To carry out its functions, the committee engages in a wide range of activities. It conducts meetings, inspects the workplace, participates and makes recommendations in developing health and safety programs, and communicates with both workers and management.
The committee provides an opportunity for those affected by health and safety hazards to use their first-hand knowledge of the workplace to identify hazards and make recommendations to control them.
A JHSC is not a substitute for enforcement of the law, and it doesn’t have to wait for a violation before making recommendations. The committee’s work should emphasize prevention by anticipating problems before they occur.
Legal Requirements and Regulations for JHSCs
A joint health and safety committee is required in any workplace which regularly employs 20 or more workers. This includes full and part-time employees.
A JHSC is also needed on a construction project where 20 or more workers are regularly employed and is expected to last at least three months. If a designated substance applies (other than on a construction project), a committee must be formed. If a Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development inspector issues an order to convene a JHSC, then the employer must comply.
In farming, a JHSC is required if the farming operation has 20 or more workers who are regularly employed, and those 20 or more workers have duties that include performing work related to mushroom, greenhouse, dairy, hog, cattle or poultry farming.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act sets out the following minimum functions for Joint Health and Safety Committees:
- identify sources of danger or hazards;
- make written recommendations for improvements to the constructor or employer;
- obtain certain information from the constructor or employer regarding actual or potential hazards;
- obtain information from the constructor or employer concerning testing;
- consult about testing methods and strategies.
The worker members of a JHSC are required to designate one of the worker members who may carry out additional functions:
- to be present at the beginning of testing;
- to inspect the workplace at least once a month;
- to inform the JHSC of actual or potential hazards;
- to assist in resolving matters when a worker refuses work on the grounds that it endangers health or safety.
The functions of JHSCs are specified in the OHSA. The OHSA also gives JHSCs certain duties and powers to carry out their functions. Most of these functions, powers and duties relate directly to the four major tasks of recognizing, assessing, recommending action to control health and safety hazards, and evaluating hazard controls.
A few others deal specifically with committee procedures. To provide a better understanding of the purpose and application of the OHSA, the descriptions in the following sections are presented in plain language. The OHSA contains the exact wording and should be consulted when precise interpretations are needed.
Recognizing Health and Safety Hazards
For a JHSC to make recommendations, it must first be aware of any hazards in the workplace. For this reason, the OHSA places a broad duty on committees “to identify sources of danger or hazards in the workplace”. A wide variety of techniques are involved, including workplace inspections, hazard assessments, monitoring, and reviews of written records.
Committees are empowered to carry out these activities by several rights set out in the OHSA. JHSCs have the right to obtain information from employers or constructors, and the worker members have the right to designate members to conduct inspections of the workplace.
- JHSC has the right to obtain information on actual or potential hazards of materials, processes, or equipment.
- JHSC has the right to be furnished by the employer with updated copies of all safety data sheets for materials used in the workplace.
- JHSC has the right to obtain an annual summary of employer-specific claims information from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. This summary includes data on injuries, fatalities, lost work-days, cases that required medical aid and the incidence of occupational illnesses. The Board must supply this information.
- JHSC has the right to information on health and safety experience and standards that the constructor or employer is aware of in other industries.
- The worker members must designate a member (if possible a certified member) to inspect the workplace at least once a month. Where this is not practical, part of the workplace must be inspected at least once per month according to a schedule determined by the JHSC. The entire workplace must be inspected at least once a year.
Assessing Health and Safety Hazards
When a hazard has been identified, the extent and severity of the hazard must be assessed. JHSCs, and in particular the worker members, have the right to participate in these procedures.
- JHSC has the right to obtain information about health and safety testing.
- JHSC has the right to be consulted prior to tests of equipment, machines or the work environment. The worker members have the right to designate a worker member to be present at the beginning of such testing.
- JHSC has the right to be consulted about proposed industrial hygiene testing strategies. The worker members have the right to designate a worker member to be present at the beginning of such testing.
- JHSC has the right to receive copies of assessment reports and to be consulted about assessment methods for designated substances.
- The worker members must designate a worker member to investigate incidents that result in critical injuries or fatalities.
Recommending Action to Control Health and Safety Hazards
The OHSA gives the JHSC the right to make recommendations, and it places a duty on the employer or constructor to reply.
- JHSC has the right to make recommendations regarding control programs for designated substances.
- JHSC has the right to make written recommendations for the improvement of the health and safety of workers.
- A reply from the employer or constructor must be given in writing within 21 days, with either a schedule for implementation or a statement of reasons for disagreement.
- JHSC has the right to be consulted about the development of worker training and instruction concerning exposure to hazardous material or hazardous physical agents, and to participate in an annual review of these training programs.
Evaluating Hazard Controls
Members of the joint health and safety committee evaluate hazard controls during monthly inspections, while speaking to fellow workers, and by monitoring the control measures put in place by the employer. At times this is done formally.
For example, if a ventilation system has been upgraded to clear high carbon monoxide levels, the joint health and safety committee members expect to see a second set of indoor air quality tests to verify that the carbon monoxide levels are within safe levels.
Benefits of Establishing a JHSC
The OHSA places specific duties and responsibilities on the JHSC and gives it the right to obtain the information it needs to carry them out.
The OHSA also endeavours to establish the JHSC as a forum for broader consultation between the workplace parties on health and safety issues. Ideally, the committee will assist in the development of health and safety programs in the workplace.
Examples of the benefits of having a JHSC include:
- Promoting acceptance of the health and safety policy and program
- Assisting in developing health and safety rules and standards
- Participating in job safety analysis
- Assessing the safety potential of new equipment, procedures and materials
- Assisting in the investigation of incidents and occupational illnesses
- Recommending worker health and safety training and education
- Promoting health and wellness initiatives
- Promoting a safety culture within the organization