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WorkSafeBC’s healthcare and social services planned inspection initiative focuses on high-risk activities in the workplace that lead to serious injuries and time-loss claims.
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Joint occupational health and safety committees

Joint occupational health and safety committees have many interchangeable names, but they all have the same primary functions and responsibilities. Some of the common names used include:

  • Workplace Safety Committee
  • JOHS Committee
  • OSH Committee
  • H&S Committee
  • Worksite Safety Committee
  • OHS Committee
  • Joint Committee
  • Safety Committee

If your workplace has 20 or more (full-time or part-time) workers, you must have a joint occupational health and safety committee. If your workplace has between nine and 19 workers, you need to have a worker health and safety representative.

If your organization requires a safety committee, at least four members must be on the committee, and at least half of the members must be worker representatives. If workers at your site do not want to volunteer for this committee, your organization’s employer representative has the right to assign worker representatives.

If your organization requires a safety committee, at least four members must be on the committee, and at least half of the members must be worker representatives. If workers at your site do not want to volunteer for this committee, your organization’s employer representative has the right to assign worker representatives.

In unionized work environments, the collective agreement may establish the selection criteria for worker representatives. If some workers are not unionized, then worker representatives must be represented in equal proportion to the number of unionized and non-unionized workers. The proportion can be adjusted based on each working group’s relative health and safety risks.

The joint occupational health and safety committee must meet at least once a month.

Yes, two co-chairs, one must represent the workers and the other the employer. Co-chairs also perform administrative tasks for the committee by preparing and documenting:

  • meeting agenda
  • meeting minutes
  • keep discussions on track
  • communicate correspondence on behalf of the committee
  • provide meeting agendas and minutes to committee members
  • post minutes, inspection reports, compliance reports for the workers and the employer
  • committee training
  • conduct/provide input on the annual evaluation of the safety committee

Your organization’s Terms of Reference (sometimes called Rules of Procedure) may assign some of the above tasks to other safety committee members.

Within the first six months of joining a joint occupational health and safety committee, a member must receive eight hours of training and instruction, four hours for a worker health and safety representative.

Joint occupational health and safety committee members/worker representatives are also entitled to an additional eight hours of annual education for every year they are joint occupational health and safety committee members. Information collected from your annual committee evaluation and your workplace’s needs will help guide and prioritize which safety education might be most useful.

New committee member/worker representative education topics include the duties, functions, roles, rules, and procedures for a safety committee and include information on the requirements for:

  • accident and incident investigations
  • regular workplace inspections
  • understanding the process for refusals of unsafe work
  • annual evaluation of the joint occupational health and safety committee

This is in combination with your site-specific training and education that may include your organization’s Health and Safety Policy, Terms of Reference, and Safe Work Procedures.

All new committee members or worker representatives’ training must occur as soon as practicable but no more than six months after the worker joins the joint occupational health and safety committee.

There are various options for providing training to committee members, including:

  • SafeCare BC
  • WorkSafeBC
  • BC Federation
  • Employers Advisory Office

Learn more about current training opportunities

A safety committee is a joint advisory group of employer and employee representatives that share responsibility and work together to promote and improve workplace safety. Primary responsibilities include:

  • promote the health and safety program
  • identify potentially unsafe workplace hazards
  • investigate incidents/injuries
  • attend and participate in safety meetings
  • make recommendations to improve workplace safety
  • intake worker’s safety concerns
  • participate in the work refusal process
  • communicate concerns to the employer/senior management
  • recommend health and safety training and educational programs
  • consult/liaise with workers to commend and correct unsafe conditions
  • conduct regular inspections
  • annually review joint occupational health and safety committee
  • support annual review of the safety program

An annual evaluation of your safety program includes measuring the effectiveness of the joint occupational health and safety committee. Evaluation of the committees’ overall effectiveness includes reviewing the following:

  • selection of members
  • terms of reference (or rules of procedures)
  • monthly meeting with agenda, minutes, incident statistics and related safety records
  • new member training and additional annual health and safety training
  • duties and functions of the committee
  • communication, written recommendations with timely recommendations/follow-up
  • inspections, hazard identification, risk assessment, corrective measures/controls
  • written, timely and effective incident investigations

The evaluation may be done by committee co-chairs, designate of co-chairs, the employer, or persons retained by the employers with input from the co-chairs.

WorkSafeBC offers an evaluation toolkit, but employers/safety committees may develop their own annual evaluation tool provided that the evaluation is thorough and is conducted by either the co-chairs of the committee, a member of the committee designated by the co-chair, or the employer, or a person retained by the employer.

Officers would look for posted minutes from the past three months, committee training, duties and function, committee representatives’ makeup, actions records, and documentation of the annual review of the joint occupational health and safety program.

The employer must provide a practical means for the worker representative to participate in the investigation, and a worker representative must be reasonably available within 48 hours of an incident.

If the selected worker representative is not immediately available to conduct the initial investigation in person, the employer may find an alternate way to include them. For example, they may collect related information (pictures, videos, records, reports, statements) so the worker representative can provide recommendations as part of the investigation.

Joint occupational health and safety meeting minutes should include:

  • date, time, location of the meeting
  • attendees
  • approval of previous meeting minutes
  • New and carry-over business items
    • Reports
    • Statistics: incident, occupational diseases, near misses, first aid
    • Inspections (planned and unscheduled)
    • progress reports
    • reference materials/attachments
  • date, time, location of next meeting

Joint occupational health and safety minutes may include other details relevant to a health and safety committees, such as:

  • special guests
  • annual review of the safety committee or safety program
  • education and training
    • Joint occupational health and safety committee training
    • Safety Huddles
    • Site-specific safety training (safe work procedures)
  • additional resources

While every organization must post the last three months of joint occupational health and safety committee meeting minutes, care should be taken to remove confidential and personal information (e.g., incident details that identify particular employees) on meeting minutes.

Meeting minutes (electronically or physically) should be posted from the last three months in a way that is available and easy to access for all employees. Not all employees use a computer in their daily job tasks, so it is important to make a physical copy available, in a known location, for all staff.

Creative ways to encourage employees to review the health and safety bulletin board could include:

  • Regularly updating your bulletin board
  • A call to action that includes the participation of all workers
  • Details on how to report an incident
  • Information on how to contact the safety committee
  • Site-specific health and safety resources
  • Current education and training opportunities
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP) content
  • Funny health and safety quotes, cartoons or photos, see WorkSafeBC’s What’s Wrong With This Photo?
  • Posting small contests or challenges, see past Safety Den entries and Safety Innovations Database for ideas

The annual review of your joint occupational health and safety committee should identify possible areas of improvement and help to ensure that your safety committee is on the right track. You can support this process by ensuring that your safety committee members understand their duties and functions and receive eight hours of mandatory training and any site-specific training and education. Your committee is responsible for:

  • Meeting monthly, documenting and posting meeting minutes
  • Knowing policies, procedures, and safe working practices for:
    • identifying and correcting unsafe acts or conditions
    • knowledge and ability to promptly deal with concerns
    • ensure accident investigations and inspections are performed
    • making recommendations, and reporting concerns, to your employer

SafeCare BC is currently offering a Health and Safety Refresher presentation. This FREE 30-minute presentation is offered in person, for sites in the lower mainland, or virtually, and can be integrated into your joint occupational health and safety committee meeting. It’s filled with practical advice on sector-specific safety topics and includes an opportunity to ask site-specific safety questions to one of our health and safety consultants.

Check out this poster for more information.

Joint occupational health and safety committees

Related Resources

A Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee is required in workplaces where there are 20 or more employees. Small workplaces with more than nine but less than 20 employees must have a worker health and safety representative.
View Safety Topic
SafeCare BC is currently offering an occupational health and safety refresher presentation. This free 30-minute presentation is offered in-person or virtually and can be integrated into your health and safety committee meeting. It’s filled with practical advice on sector-specific safety topics and includes an opportunity to ask one of our health and safety consultants site-specific safety questions. 
View Safety Topic

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