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How to Establish a Joint Health and Safety Committee

Workplace safety isn’t just the responsibility of employers and managers. According to the concept of Internal Responsibility System (IRS), job safety should be based on the principle that every individual in a workplace is responsible for maintaining a healthy and safe workplace. In order for an IRS to function properly, workers and management must band together and create a partnership to improve job safety. These partnerships are known as Joint Health and Safety Committees, and it is the responsibility of these committees to enforce Ontario’s workplace health and safety legislation.

What is a Joint Health and Safety Committee?
A Joint Health and Safety Committee is a forum for discussing and improving the overall safety of a company workplace. The committee consists of both labour and management representatives and meets regularly to discuss important safety-related issues and requirements. This joint arrangement helps bring together in-depth practical knowledge of specific tasks along with workplace dangers with company policies, procedures, and planning. The role of the committee is to:
  • Respond to the health and safety concerns of workers
  • Identify hazards and initiate actions to resolve these safety issues
  • Ensure the proper maintenance and monitoring of injury work hazard records
  • Create and promote workplace safety programs and WHMIS training
  • Monitor effectiveness of safety programming, training, and procedures
  • Resolve workplace refusals and work stoppages

Does Your Business Need a Joint Health and Safety Committee?
The following are the requirements for Joint Health and Safety Committees:

  • In companies that have 20 or more workers employed on a regular basis.
  • In construction projects where 20 or more workers will be working on a project for three months or longer.
  • In any workplace (excluding construction projects) where a designated substance regulation applies and there are fewer than 20 workers regularly employed.

A workplace with less than 5 regular workers employed on a regular does not require a Joint Health and Safety Committee if the workplace does not handle controlled substances. These companies may choose to have a workplace health and safety representative instead.

Who should be on a Joint Health and Safety Committee?
There are a few things a company must first consider before establishing a Joint Health and Safety Committee. Employment numbers are the first item. If your company has fewer than 50 workers regularly employed, you need only two members (one representative from management and one from among the labour force). When 50 or more workers are employed, your Joint Health and Safety Committee must include four members.  The following are a few basic guidelines for establishing your committee:

  • At least half of the members of the committee must be worker representatives.
  • The members that represent the workers should be chosen by the workforce, or by the trade union(s) that represent the workers, where this applies.
  • The employer may choose any management members for the committee.
  • At least one worker member and one management member must undergo proper health and safety training.

There are many benefits to having a Joint Health and Safety Committee in place at your business. Not only will your company be able to properly handle workplace health and safety issues, but you’ll also have the training and means to prevent future health and safety accidents. A Joint Health and Safety Committee will help workers and management work together to develop practical solutions for on the job health and safety.