The legislation which requires the establishment of Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSCs), is a key strategy to enhance worker health and safety. However, JHSCs cannot fulfill their mandate if the committee itself is not functioning well. Such was observed in the healthcare sector during the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Ontario 1. Justice Archie Campell found “Neither internal responsibility nor joint health and safety committees were, in general, fulfilling their intended roles and responsibilities" 1. In a hospital setting, Occupational Health departments and JHSCs focus on worker health and safety while Infection Prevention and Control takes care of patient health and safety. In an outbreak scenario, coordination among all parties is instrumental for best outcomes 2. The role of the JHSC includes reviewing policies and procedures, communicating with the workforce, participating in work refusals and injury/illness investigations and liaising with government officials 2.
The Centre for Research Expertise in Occupational Disease has developed a tool to assess JHSC effectiveness. It is a self-assessment tool designed to allow JHSC diagnose various aspects of the key functions and activities of their own JHSC3. Although the tool is tailored to the healthcare sector, it can be adapted to other sectors as well. While it does contain some legislative requirements, the tool is not meant to be a compliance audit but rather a tool for committee development and improvement. Furthermore, findings demonstrated that this tool is easy to use, effective in supporting discussion and in assisting participants in reaching consensus on rating a large number of JHSC characteristics 3.
Access the JHSC assessment tool.
- Ministry Reports The SARS Commission - Spring of Fear Final Report The Honourable Mr. Justice Archie Campbell, Commissioner
- Joint Health and Safety Committees - What is their impact in the acute care hospital?
- Centre for Research Expertise in Occupational Disease