Health and safety committee member orientation.

Terms of reference

Module 2.1 - Framework

There are varying requirements to establish a health and safety committee in Ontario; however, health and safety committees aid in the protection against work-related accidents, incidents, illnesses and deaths. Additionally, a health and safety committee is a legal requirement for most workplaces in Ontario, including the University of Ottawa.

uOttawa has developed health and safety committee Terms of Reference (PDF, 1MB), which outline the function of the health and safety committees.

Module 2.2 - Purpose

A health and safety committee is composed of people who represent the workers and the employer functioning as a cohesive unit who are committed to improving health and safety conditions in the workplace. The committee serves as an advisory body to the employer that helps to stimulate awareness of health and safety issues, aid in recognizing workplace risks and recommending solutions to the employer. To achieve its goal, the health and safety committee holds regular meetings and conducts regular inspections of the workplace. The recommendations put forth must be acknowledged by the employer; however, the employer is not obligated to implement them.

Think of the committee as a review mechanism of management health and safety practices. It is management’s responsibility to ensure a healthy and safe workplace; the committee is there to provide input, review the health and safety programs, and recommend (as required).

When encountering an issue or a problem that is brought to a health and safety committee member or committee, the issue must be validated – is it really a health and safety concern? If yes, what is the best solution for all parties involved?

Module 2.3 - Functions of the committee

Each of the health and safety committees at uOttawa has the following functions and powers:

  1. Identify and evaluate any matter pertaining to health and safety in the workplace and recommend a resolution to appropriate management representatives;
  2. Recommend to management and workers the establishment, maintenance and monitoring of programs, measures and procedures respecting the health and safety of University employees;
  3. Obtain information from management respecting
    1. the identification of potential or existing hazards of materials, processes or equipment, and
    2. health and safety experience and work practices and standards in other institutions of which management has knowledge;
  4. Obtain information from management concerning the conducting or taking of tests of any equipment, machine or biological, chemical or physical agent in or about a workplace for the purpose of health and safety;
  5. Be consulted about, and have a designated member representing workers be present during any testing referred to in clause (d) conducted in or about the workplace, if the designated member believes his or her presence is required to ensure that the test results will be valid;
  6. Recommend adequate education and training programs in order that all employees be informed in their rights, restrictions, responsibilities and duties under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act;
  7. Address matters related to Designated Substance Regulations and the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) where applicable;
  8. Deal with any health and safety matter that the Committee deems appropriate or required under the Act.

The above information appears in section 9(18) of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Module 2.4 - Committee member responsibilities

It’s not enough to simply attend the meetings; members must be engaged and participate. This could include:

  • Reviewing documentation relevant to the committee’s mandate;
  • Attending workplace sampling activities;
  • Sharing and distributing health and safety-related information to your colleagues / union / association;
  • Acting as a conduit from your union / association to the health and safety committee;
  • Conducting health and safety inspections;
  • Following-up on accident reports received;
  • Investigating health and safety-related complaints, etc.

As you can see, there are several different (and important) parts to committee members’ duties. Being a committee member is serious business…you’re making a difference in your workplace!