The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) is built upon the principal that workers and employers must work together to identify and resolve health and safety problems. If you regularly employ 6-19 employees then you are required to have a worker health and safety representative (HSR). The HSR helps to identify workplace hazards and makes recommendations to you, the employer.
In fact, these are the responsibility of you the owner/employer and respective supervisors. The HSR can assist you with many of these activities and help support a healthy IRS.
Under Section 65(1)d of the OHSA, the health and safety representative is protected from liability for accidents and from prosecution for their good faith actions as a representative.
An HSR must be selected by the workers, or by the union, if the workplace is unionized. As the employer, you must allow the workers an opportunity to select their worker representative. One way to select the HSR is for workers to nominate their peers and then vote on for a candidate. Once selected, the name of the health and safety representative (and contact information if needed) must be posted.
There is no specified term for a worker representative to fulfil the role, but it is recommended that the workers consider a time limit for new nominations and voting. You can support this process by providing documented HSR procedures.
The representative must be paid their regular or premium rate (whichever applies) for the time spent conducting any of their duties and allow time to perform those duties.
The HSR must have time to prepare for and conduct monthly workplace inspections. Prior to beginning the inspection, it is good practice to plan the route and any particular areas of focus.
A workplace inspection isn’t just the act of filling in a checklist. It’s also the opportunity to observe employees performing work and to ask questions. It gives the HSR a chance to identify potential hazards and possible solutions they can recommend to the employer.
It’s also good practice to conduct the inspection in pairs, if possible. For example, the HSR might invite a supervisor, manager or even yourself, to participate and act as a second set of eyes.
Remember, the HSR provides your team with an additional opportunity to identify hazards. The HSR is not responsible for identifying all workplace hazards, as this is the day-to-day role of the parties within the Internal Responsibility System.
Once the HSR conducts a monthly inspection, they may have identified hazards that will require follow-up. The HSR prepares a simple report for you, which includes the list of noted deficiencies. It is your responsibility to determine appropriate corrective actions and to document a response to the items in the report. Include supervisors in the discussion about appropriate corrective actions that pertain to their work areas and assign responsibility accordingly.
On occasion, the HSR may identify a hazard that merits a formal recommendation. This could happen: if the HSR notes a reoccurring/repeat health and safety issue during the monthly inspections; of a control that was not implemented effectively; or if something requiring budgeting/planning is being recommended.
When the HSR makes written recommendations, you are required to respond in writing, within 21 days. The response must include a timetable for implementing the recommendations with which you agree, or the reasons why you don’t agree at this time.
The monthly inspection report and any formal recommendations may be posted on the health and safety bulletin board for the month, which contributes to the workers’ right to know.
See the Resource section for sample workplace inspection tools.
Health & Safety Representative Overview (PDF download) | A health and safety representative is a worker who, under section 8 of the Act, identifies health and safety hazards and provide recommendations to the employer.
Workplace Inspection Checklist | A workplace inspection checklist template. Employers are encouraged to use, reproduce, or customize this document / template to meet their health and safety requirements.
Workplace Inspection Training | This 3.5 hour training course that provides you with the necessary knowledge and skills to do regular, planned, pre-use workplace inspections.
Workplace Inspections (English) (1 hour) | This course will teach you how to effectively prepare, conduct and document workplace inspections.
Health and Safety Representative (HSR) Basic Training (8 hours) | This small business self-paced online training (for workplaces with 6-19 workers) provides guidance on the powers, functions and duties of the workplace health and safety representative. This basic training program is useful for workplaces that require an HSR, regardless of sector. Reimbursement is available for businesses that qualify.
Browse through our library of specially curated resources for Health & Safety Representatives