OHS Compliance Legal Briefing: Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSC)
- adapted from the May 2019 issue of OHS Insider
Although workplace safety committees are found at work sites across the world, Canada is one of the few places where they’re mandatory. Reason: In most industrialized countries, almost all responsibility for workplace health and safety falls on the employer. But Canadian OHS laws are based on the Internal Responsibility System (IRS) theory in which keeping the workplace safe is a shared responsibility among not only employers but also workers, supervisors and other stakeholders.
When is a JHSC or Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Committee Required?
An employer must establish an OHS committee at any workplace [by Saskatchewan law, where 10 or more] workers are regularly employed. For construction sites, the need for an OHS committee is determined not by simply the number of workers but also whether the project is expected to last at least 90 days.
Who Creates an OHS Committee?
In most cases, the employer is responsible for establishing an OHS committee at its workplace. Exception: At construction projects where workers of 2 or more employers work, the OHS committee must be established by the employer designated as constructor (aka, primary or general contractor).
How an OHS Committee Is Created?
The first step is to select the worker and management members and have each group choose one of their number to serve as co-chair. Once the members and co-chairs are in place, the OHS committee holds its first meeting at which members adopt a document called the Terms of Reference or Rules of Procedure setting out the OHS committee’s purpose and operating procedures, including the OHS committee’s goals and functions; the roles, responsibilities and term lengths of individual members and co-chairs; and how meetings will be run and how often they’ll be held; etc. In Saskatchewan, the frequency of meetings is set out as follows:
41(1) Subject to subsection (2), a committee shall:
(a) hold its first meeting within two weeks after being established;
(b) hold three subsequent meetings at intervals not exceeding one month; and
(c) after that, hold regular meetings at intervals not exceeding three months
How Committee Members Designated?
39(1) An employer or contractor who is required to establish a committee shall:
(a) in designating the members:
(ii) ensure that there is a sufficient number of members representing workers on the committee to equitably represent groups of workers who have substantially different occupational health and safety concerns;
How Long Can OHS Committee Members Serve?
In Saskatchewan, the term of an OHS committee member can be up to 3 years and the member can be re-elected.
What are the Core Functions of the OHS Committee?
Core OHS committee functions under OHS laws include participating in workplace hazard identification and assessment; consulting in the development and review of required OHS programs and policies; helping to create worker training and education programs; holding and documenting regular and special meetings; recommending health and safety measures to the employer/constructor; helping to resolve worker health and safety complaints.
To find out when the next SCSA Occupational Health Committee (OHC) Training Level 1 course is being offered, click here.