How a JHSC or H&S rep can make a small business owner's life easier

Oct 09, 2014

JHSCJoint health and safety committees (JHSCs) and worker health and safety representatives may be an untapped human resource for small business owners and managers.

JHSCs are generally required in workplaces where 20 or more people are regularly employed; health and safety representatives, in workplaces where between 6 and 19 people are regularly employed. The Occupational Health and Safety Act assigns specific requirements and duties to JHSCs and reps, but owners and managers that see them only as obligations may be missing out on opportunities.

"The 'joint' in JHSC refers to workers and managers," says Scott Morrow, a WSPS consultant who delivers certification training for JHSCs, "but to me 'joint' also means the committee and the employer. Each can help the other do their jobs better."

What JHSCs and reps can do for you

WSPS Network News spoke with Scott Morrow and Dan Bailey, general manager of Milo - Food & Agricultural Infrastructure & Services1 in Wheatley, ON. Although not a member of Milo-FAIS' JHSC, Bailey has taken JHSC certification training because, he says, "I'm the highest management person on site and here all the time. I wanted to understand health and safety that much more and be supportive of the business."

  • JHSCs and reps help build and sustain a structured hazard management process. Under the act, they are responsible for conducting regular inspections and investigating accidents. "Knowing that specially trained people are doing this, pointing things out to supervisors, and reporting findings at meetings assures me that hazards are being identified, prioritized and followed up on," says Bailey. "If you don't know what the hazards are, you can't manage them. Our JHSC serves as a built-in monitoring, tracking and continuous improvement process, which takes some of the weight of my shoulders."
  • JHSCs and reps provide informed input. This can benefit you in at least two ways. "The act requires them to be consulted on workplace testing," says Morrow. "This could mean an HVAC technician who's installing a new range hood or an industrial hygienist who's taking air samples, and here you've got your own people who have a knowledge of safety who can ask the right questions or provide the right answers. They can also make sure the work is done safely, freeing you up to manage your other priorities." JHSCs and reps can also provide informed input on health and safety training because they know the work and the workplace. Is the training thorough enough? Does it satisfy workplace needs? Are there any gaps?
  • JHSCs and reps help manage costs. Preventing injuries also prevents unforeseen costs. Bailey illustrates this with a workers compensation analogy: "We want rebates, not surcharges."
  • JHSCs and reps help create a participatory environment that engages employees and encourages them to contribute. "Seeing peers actively involved in safety communicates that safety is important and that we want to keep everyone safe," says Bailey. "When everybody pitches in, everybody reaps the benefits. But the most important benefit is that at the end of the day everybody goes home safe and healthy."
  • JHSCs and reps provide peace of mind. "Our JHSC takes my mind off events that could happen," says Bailey, "which allows me to focus on what needs to happen."

How to make best use of your JHSC or rep

These four steps can help boost your JHSC or health and safety rep’s effectiveness.

  1. Understand your obligations as an employer, and ensure you comply.
  2. Figure out what hazards may be present. This is a starting point for all your health and safety initiatives, including the inspections that your JHSC or health and safety rep must conduct.
  3. Understand what JHSCs and reps are supposed to do and how they’re supposed to function.
  4. Provide them with the tools they need to do the job, including certification training and management support.

How WSPS can help

Check out our JHSC and health and safety rep resource page, where you’ll find

  • a summary of what the law says
  • how JHSCs and health and safety reps can help your business
  • online and classroom courses
  • free downloads, including FAQs and forms.

WSPS consultants can also provide onsite assistance in establishing a JHSC or health and safety rep, or helping them add value to your business.

1 With a cold storage capacity of 200,000 square feet, Milo-FAIS is one of southern Ontario's largest cold storage and food processing facilities. The company provides fully computerized warehouse facilities and distribution services, as well as various services required for processing fruit, vegetable and fish.