What is a Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC)?
A JHSC is an advisory group required under s.9 of the Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA). The committee is made up of management and worker representatives who work together to identify health and safety problems and recommend solutions. Members meet regularly to
- discuss health and safety concerns
- make recommendations to the employer, and
- follow-up on progress made
Committees are generally required where
- 20 or more workers are regularly employed, or
- a toxic substance order applies, or
- a designated substance regulation is applied (e.g. a regulation for lead or isocyanates)
The construction industry has different requirements for joint committees. Please refer to specific information at IHSA.
What is a Health and Safety Representative?
In workplaces where there are between six and 19 regularly employed workers, the law requires that there is a health and safety representative.
What the law says
Ontario's OHSA is built on the principle that workers and employers must work together to identify and resolve health and safety problems in the workplace. To meet this goal, JHSCs are required by law in many Ontario workplaces.
The OHSA is very specific about how committees must be composed:
- They must be made up of at least two persons in workplaces where fewer than 50 workers are regularly employed [s.9(6)(a)].
- They must have four members where there are more than 50 workers [s.9(6)(b)].
- They must have two co-chairs - one worker member and one management member [s.9(11)].
- At least half of the members must be workers who do not exercise managerial functions; these members must be selected by the workers or the trade union if there is one [s.9(7)].
- The remaining members must be selected by the employer from among persons who exercise managerial functions [s.9(9)].
- At least one of the members representing workers and one representing managers must be certified [s.9(12)].
In addition, at least two JHSC members (one worker/one manager) must be certified. Please refer to Certification for additional information.
Generally speaking, a health and safety representative has the same responsibilities and powers as a joint committee member.
How JHSC / H&S Representatives can help your business
The OHSA sets out certain functions and powers that apply to the committee or representatives as a whole, and specific duties and powers that apply to worker members. The committee’s key functions are to:
- identify hazards in the workplace through activities like workplace inspections, accident investigations and information analyses
- make recommendations to the employer on health and safety issues and on programs and procedures to improve health and safety.
Responsibilities and powers of the health and safety representative include:
- identify workplace hazards [s.8(100)]
- inspect the workplace at least once a month [s.8(6)]
- consult on workplace testing [s.8(11)]
- make recommendations to the employer [s.8(10)]
- investigate work refusals[s.43(4)] and serious accidents [s.8(14)].
Your JHSC (or H&S Representative) serve as effective health and safety role models and partners in your organization. The JHSC has an obligation to inspect workplace practices and recommend solutions to management. This helps keep your workplace compliant, but more importantly, there is less likelihood of injuries or illnesses because of the diligence of your JHSC members or H&S Representative.
What you can do
The OHSA places a general duty on the employer to cooperate with and help the joint committee (or H&S Representative) carry out its responsibilities. In particular, an employer must:
- provide information that the committee (or H&S Representative) has the power to obtain (this includes current material safety data sheets, suppliers’ information on devices that emit hazardous agents, and copies of any assessment reports on chemical or biological agents)
- respond to recommendations in writing within 21 days, and include an implementation timetable or reasons for disagreement, if any
- provide copies of all orders and reports issued by the MOL inspector
- report any workplace deaths, injuries or illnesses to the committee.
Employers must also consult with the committee (or H&S Representative) on these issues:
- Assessment and control programs for designated substances.
- Development and review of instruction and training for workers exposed to or likely to be exposed to hazardous materials and physical agents.