Regardless of what stage your workplace is in - from an essential operation that never closed to a business that’s just re-opened - your joint health and safety committee (JHSC) may be your strongest workplace ally in mounting a defence against COVID-19.
“Workplaces today may be very different from what they were seven months ago,” says WSPS Consultant Kristin Oronato, “but effective JHSCs remain one of your greatest health and safety assets.”
JHSCs are generally required for workplaces with 20 or more employees. The committees comprise management and worker representatives who work together to inspect the workplace, identify health and safety issues, recommend solutions to the employer, and follow up on progress made, explains Kristin. “They create a safer workplace for everybody and communicate a strong message to employees that they are valued - especially now, in this period of uncertainty.”
For workplaces with 6 to 19 employees, a health and safety representative performs a similar function.
Kristin offers nine ways to maximize the COVID-fighting effectiveness of your JHSC or health and safety representative.
- Keep your JHSC or health and safety representative informed of processes or changes introduced as a result of COVID-19, as well as COVID-19 precautions implemented in your workplace and mandated by the province.
- Add a COVID section to your JHSC’s or health and safety representative’s inspection checklist. Possibilities include COVID-related process or job changes, decontamination practices, physical distancing, personal protective equipment, hygiene facilities, etc.
- Increase the frequency of inspections or dedicate inspections to COVID-19 hazards. Besides helping to control hazards, this engages employees and encourages them to remain vigilant.
- Ensure JHSC members and health and safety representatives are equipped with the tools and personal protective equipment needed to conduct inspections safely.
- Document inspections electronically to avoid handling paper checklists, if possible.
- Involve your JHSC or representative in creating or reviewing your COVID-19 safety plan - just like you would do with any other safety program or safety procedure.
- Offer your JHSC members or representative greater flexibility in fulfilling their obligations, such as meeting virtually or taking additional time to conduct inspections and formulate recommendations.
- Ensure your JHSC members or representative have a comfort level with fulfilling their responsibilities. Before you send someone out on an inspection, ask whether they are comfortable with the process. Do they have any concerns? Have they received the training they require?
- Stay compliant with JHSC certification training requirements. “It’s really easy now because Part One and Part Two certification training have gone virtual,” notes Kristin.
How we can help
- Attend “High Performing JHSCs in Challenging Times,” one of a dozen sessions taking place during WSPS’ Partners in Prevention Health & Safety Fall Virtual Conference, October 21. In this panel session, you’ll hear how JHSC members at McCormick Canada, an essential operation, continued meeting their responsibilities in a COVID world while pivoting from traditional communications to a new virtual environment.
- WSPS offers a number of COVID-19 checklists that your JHSC could adapt to add a COVID-19 component to inspections. Among the options:
These are just a sampling of resources available on our COVID-19 Hub.
- Explore safe certification and refresher training options to keep your committee compliant.
1 Learn more about when a JHSC or health and safety representative is required, and what their duties are.