It’s not groundbreaking news that employers have an obligation to keep their employees safe and free from harm while at work or that all workplaces must abide by various legislations, including the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). One crucial, and sometimes mandatory, element to assist in providing greater protection against workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths are Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSC). This is an important refresher on an employer’s obligations surrounding these committees, whether your workplace is in-office, hybrid, or remote.
What is a joint health and safety committee?
As it may be obvious from the name, the overall objective of the JHSC is to improve the health and safety of a workspace. The JHSC is made up of management and worker representatives who collaborate to raise awareness of workplace safety, identify any health and safety issues that may be prevalent in a workplace, and propose solutions to their employer. Members should meet regularly (and are required to meet at least every three months) and conduct workplace inspections to ensure these goals are being met. The JHSC should be a co-operative involvement to ensure everything is being done to mitigate or eliminate workplace hazards.
Which workplaces must have a joint health and safety committee?
Not only are JHSCs a key element to a well-functioning and safe workplace but they are also mandatory depending on the size of your workplace.
Generally, if your workplace has 6 to 19 employees, you are required to have a health and safety representative selected by the workers they represent. This post is about committees, as representatives will have different duties and responsibilities.
If your workplace has over 20 employees it is mandatory to have a JHSC made up of at least two members. If your workplace is over 50 employees, your committee must be made up of at least four members. There are also special requirements if a substance regulation applies to your workplace.
OHSA is very specific about how the committees must be made up; each must have at least one worker member and one management member. The worker member must be selected by their fellow workers and the management member must be selected by the employer. At least one of the members from each category must be certified, meaning they have completed mandatory training for certification. The names and work locations of the members must also be posted at your workplace.
It’s important to note that these are only the minimum requirements. Your workplace can have a much larger JHSC and more members can be certified.
Is a joint health and safety committee still required for hybrid or remote workplace?
Similar to all workplace policies and standards, what is required for in-office work applies to home offices. Therefore, a JHSC is still mandatory even if your workplace is hybrid or remote and all of the same legislative requirements that apply to in-office, will apply to remote work.
If you are hybrid, and whether or not employees are attending your physical office space on a regular basis, the JHSC still has an obligation to inspect the in-person workplace to ensure its safety and compliance with OHSA.
If your workplace is entirely remote, or for hybrid setups when working from home, the JHSC is still responsible for raising awareness on safety hazards that may affect remote employees, flagging these hazards for the employer, and working towards a solution. While it is not mandatory for JHSC members to attend each employee’s physical home office, a self-inspection process should be in place. This could include a workstation set-up checklist, training on ergonomics, or mental health resources.
Whether your workplace is remote or not, employers should encourage open communications between employees and leadership teams and their JHSC so everything is being done to ensure your employees’ safety.
By Lindsay Koruna
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