Once workers are back together in the workplace, employers will want to ensure that their health and safety policies and programs have been reviewed and account for all the changes and new ways of doing things. Your Joint Health and Safety Committee will play a role!
What’s a Joint Health and Safety Committee?
In Ontario, one legal requirement of a compliant health and safety program (H&S Program) under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) is for workplaces that regularly employ 20 or more workers to establish a Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC). A JHSC is made up of employees and managers who meet on a regular basis to deal with health and safety issues in the workplace. The group is required to have a balanced number of employee representatives and management representatives. Employers must consult with the JHSC about their H&S Program and employees can directly approach their JHSC with any health and safety concerns.
JHSC and the Pandemic
Many employers will already have a JHSC that was established before the pandemic. Those JHSC, if they were operating at all, were probably operating some modified form of the H&S Program during the pandemic (with its ups and downs, mandatory work-from-home and worksite restrictions). OHSA requires that employers ensure that their H&S Programs and Policies are updated whenever necessary and at least annually. The migration from remote work to the office (or some hybrid) is enough of an operational shift to make a review of the program necessary; including making sure the membership ranks of the JHSC satisfy the requirements under OHSA.
The Employer’s Duty
Employers have a duty to consult with their JHSC regarding health and safety in the workplace. The development and implementation of the H&S program is meant to be a collaboration between the employer and the JHSC. In order to equip the JHSC with the knowledge the Ministry of Labour deems necessary to fulfil their consultation role, it mandates specific training requirements for designated members of the JHSC to ensure they can recognize incidents that engage workplace health and safety and so that they can be effective in providing support to workers when they are called up to do so.
If you would like to know more about the JHSC requirements that apply to your workplace, get in touch. We can also help you to prepare and customize the mandated program, policies and training that you will need to satisfy your legal obligations under OHSA.