Under Section 9 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OH&S ACT), it states that a company with 20 or more workers does require having a functioning Joint Health & Safety Committee (JHSC) in place.

¹(9) Joint health and safety committee

(2) A joint health and safety committee is required,

(a) at a workplace at which twenty or more workers are regularly employed;

(b) at a workplace with respect to which an order to an employer is in effect under section 33; or

(c) at a workplace, other than a construction project where fewer than twenty workers are regularly employed, with respect to which a regulation concerning designated substances applies.  R.S.O. 1990, c. O.1, s. 9 (2).

Minister’s order

(3) Despite subsections (1) and (2), the Minister may, by order in writing, require a constructor or an employer to establish and maintain one or more joint health and safety committees for a workplace or a part thereof, and may, in such order, provide for the composition, practice and procedure of any committee so established.  R.S.O. 1990, c. O.1, s. 9 (3).

While the law is the law, and if anyone breaks it there will be consequences to pay, sometimes it’s very difficult to get your volunteers for worker reps on your committee. Some of the industries that face the biggest challenges are fast food franchises, restaurants and retail, to name a few.

With the high turnover rate in the above noted industries, it may seem like, as owners, all you’re doing is continuously filling the worker rep position on the committee. Below are a few suggestions that may help.

The committee for workplaces with 20-49 workers must have a minimum of 2 certified members, 1 worker rep and 1 management rep. Workplaces with 50+ workers must have a JHSC consisting of a minimum of 4 members, 2 management reps and 2 worker reps, half of whom must be certified.

Committees are not allowed under the OH&S Act to have more management reps than worker reps. If this is the case, worker reps must be added to ensure the numbers always follow the OH&S Act regulations.

While the management rep on the committee can be selected by the management, the worker rep must be a volunteer or must be selected by their fellow workers. They cannot be told by management that they must sit on the committee, not to mention that forcing someone on the committee does nothing to strengthen the committee or workplace safety environment.

If you have more volunteers than spots on the committee, hold an election to allow other workers to vote. If there are not enough volunteers, allow workers to nominate other workers and once nominated they can either accept or decline the nomination.

Let the workers know the benefits of being on the committee such as;

  • Better communications between workers and management.
  • Creates better open lines of communication between all levels of workers, giving each a voice in their workplace safety and hazard recognition and mitigation.
  • When the worker reps lead by example, other workers are more apt to follow their lead, which results in a total buy in and better safety culture throughout.
  • The selected worker will now be the voice of all other workers at that workplace to be part of creating a safer working environment for all.

While you can’t bride a worker to sit on the committee, you can reward them if they decide to join. Rewards don’t have to be extravagant; they can be as simple as;

  • Provide them with opportunities of further professional development training
  • Have some coffee, beverages and donuts waiting for them at their next meeting
  • Give them career development opportunities within your company, as long as they are qualified for such .
  • A simple ‘thank you’ card from upper management and staff
  • Have them recognized as an important part of the team at your next company function

As management and management reps, it’s important to listen to all concerns and comments from the worker reps and treat each as serious matter, not to be shrugged off lightly.

If the worker reps feel as though they are not being taken seriously, they are less likely to bring up safety issues and concerns, and will most likely resign quickly from the committee. When this happens, they are sure to voice their displeasure of management with their fellow workers, bringing down the morale throughout the workplace.

JHSC members serve a very important role at your company, not only to bring up safety concerns and corrective measures, but also by increasing the overall morale in a workplace by showing workers that management actually does care for each and every worker throughout their company, no matter their position they hold within the company

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Source; ¹https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90o01#BK23