Understanding the Composition of JHSC Members

Categories: Joint Health and Safety Committees, OHS TrainingPublished On: November 1, 2023
Workers And Jhsc Members Are Shaking Hands After A Safety Meeting In Ontario, Canada

Selecting JHSC Members and Roles

The provisions of the OHSA respecting the selection of worker JHSC members are clear in the case of workplaces with one union. Where there is more than one union in a workplace, the unions should work together to ensure the committee represents the interests of all workers. Most often, each union has a worker member on the joint health and safety committee.

Where there is no union representing the workers, the OHSA states that the constructor or employer shall cause a joint health and safety committee to be established and maintained and that the worker members shall be selected by the workers they are to represent.

The members of the committee who represent management are selected by the constructor or employer. The OHSA requires that these members be chosen from among persons who exercise “managerial functions” and who “to the extent possible” are employed at the workplace. While this may not be practical in every case, the intent of the OHSA is to ensure JHSC members are familiar with workplace problems and are readily available.

Terms of Reference

An essential element in any effective JHSC is an agreement between the parties that sets out exactly what the JHSC is supposed to do. A written statement of the functions and operating procedures of the JHSC is usually called the terms of reference.

The terms of reference must be consistent with the OHSA and should be established by a consensus of the workplace parties. The JHSC should have a role in the employer’s overall health and safety program.

The terms of reference specify the committee’s functions, the responsibilities of committee members, the rules for calling and conducting meetings, and the records to be kept. A copy of the terms of reference should be provided to each committee member and available at every meeting. New or replacement members should review the terms of reference as part of their orientation.

While the specific content may vary based on the organization’s size, industry, and legal requirements, here are some common elements typically included in JHSC Terms of Reference:

  • Title and Purpose: Clearly states the committee’s name and its primary purpose is to promote and maintain a safe and healthy work environment for employees.
  • Authority and Scope: Specifies the committee’s authority, including its power to identify hazards, conduct inspections, recommend improvements, and participate in safety-related decision-making processes. It also outlines the scope of the committee’s responsibilities, such as focusing on workplace-specific safety issues and compliance with relevant laws and regulations.
  • Membership: Details the composition of the JHSC, including the number of worker representatives and management representatives and how members are selected or elected. If there is more than one union-represented, it lists the unions. Often, there is also non-union representation. This section may also specify the role of the committee co-chairs. There can never be more management members on the JHSC than workers.
  • Alternates: Details the role of alternates if they are used on the committee. If each committee member has an alternate, it is imperative that the alternate member receives ongoing minutes and is kept informed of committee business.
  • Term of Appointment: Outlines the duration of the committee members’ terms, how replacements are chosen when vacancies arise, and any restrictions on consecutive terms. JHSCs work best when there are new people on a rotating basis. Be sure that not everyone’s term ends at the same time. A great deal of knowledge is lost when a member leaves the committee. It is also helpful to address attendance. For example, more than two absences in one calendar year may lead to the committee reassessing membership.
  • Meetings and Quorum: Establishes the frequency of meetings, the process for scheduling meetings, and the minimum number of members required to be present (quorum) to conduct official business. In Ontario, JHSCs must meet at least once every three months. Many committees meet more often than that. Quorum typically is at least half of the committee or more. Be sure to be compliant; meetings can never have more management representation than worker representation.
  • Roles and Responsibilities: Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of JHSC members, including identifying hazards, conducting monthly workplace inspections, participating in incident investigations, and making recommendations for improvements.
  • Training and Education: States the requirements for JHSC member training to ensure they have the necessary knowledge and skills to carry out their duties effectively.
  • Communication and Reporting: Specifies the communication channels between the JHSC and management and any reporting requirements. It may also outline how the organization raises and addresses safety concerns.
  • Conflict Resolution: Provides a mechanism for resolving conflicts that may arise within the committee or between the committee and other parties in the organization.
  • Review and Amendment: Outlines the process for reviewing and updating the Terms of Reference to ensure it remains relevant and effective.
  • Reference to Legislation: References relevant health and safety legislation and regulations that govern the JHSC’s activities to ensure compliance with the law. Committee members are often provided with materials: print copy of the OHSA and regulations, a copy of HSPI’s Reference Guide, or access to legislation on elaws, for example.
  • Additional Provisions: Depending on the organization’s needs, the Terms of Reference may include additional provisions, such as guidelines for dealing with specific hazards, emergency response procedures, or requirements for conducting joint training sessions. Often, committee members are asked to sign a confidentiality agreement.
A Diverse Group Of Office Workers Having Their Safety Meeting

Diversity and Inclusivity in Committee Composition

Ensuring diversity and inclusivity in the composition of the Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) is crucial to promoting a broad range of perspectives, experiences, and expertise, which can lead to more effective decision-making and improved workplace safety outcomes.

Aim for a balanced representation of workers from different departments, job roles, and levels within the organization. Ensure that both male and female employees are represented and consider including workers from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and experiences.

As worker members choose representation, implement a fair and transparent process for selecting JHSC members. Avoid any bias in the selection criteria and encourage all interested employees to put themselves forward for consideration. Management, who appoints members, can round out the representation on the committee.

Ensure that language is not a barrier to participation. If your organization has a diverse linguistic workforce, provide translation services or materials in multiple languages to make information accessible to all. Provide training and support for JHSC members, regardless of their background or experience. This can help level the playing field and empower all members to contribute effectively.

Make sure the committee is accessible to individuals with disabilities. Provide accommodations, such as accessible meeting spaces, materials in accessible formats, and any necessary assistive technologies. Consider scheduling JHSC meetings to accommodate various work shifts and personal commitments, making it easier for employees from different departments to participate.

Create an environment where all members feel comfortable voicing their opinions and ideas. Encourage active listening and open dialogue, respecting diverse perspectives. Consider offering diversity and inclusion training for the entire JHSC, emphasizing the importance of an inclusive approach to their work.

Implement mentorship programs or opportunities for new JHSC members to learn from experienced committee members. This can help nurture a diverse pool of future safety leaders. Collect feedback from JHSC members and employees about their experiences with the committee. Use the feedback to identify areas for improvement and inclusivity enhancement.

By implementing these strategies, organizations can create a more diverse and inclusive JHSC, fostering a culture of safety that reflects all employees’ unique perspectives and contributions. This, in turn, leads to better decision-making and improved safety outcomes for the entire workforce.

About the Author

Louise Caicco Tett, Mph, Crsp, Rn - President – Occupational Health And Safety Consultant

Louise Caicco Tett
OHS Consultant

Louise is a Registered Nurse with a degree from Western University. She has a certificate in Occupational Health and Safety and holds her Canadian Registered Safety Professional Designation. Louise also has her Master’s in Public Health (Occupational Health and Safety Management) from Tulane University’s Department of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Louise’s special interests include management systems, leading indicators, safety leadership, mental health, incident investigation, and any emerging health and safety topic.


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