Health and safety committee member orientation.

Additional committee involvement

Module 5.1 - Work refusals

Section 43 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act deals specifically with work refusals. A worker may refuse to work or do particular work where he or she has reason to believe that…

  1. Any equipment…the worker is to use or operate is likely to endanger himself, herself or another worker;
  2. The physical condition of the workplace… is likely to endanger himself or herself; or
  3. Any equipment…he or she is to use or operate or the physical condition of the workplace…is in contravention of this Act or the regulations and such contravention is likely to endanger himself, herself or another worker.

All workers at uOttawa have a right to refuse unsafe work. In the event that work refusal occurs, this process will involve the health and safety committee too! The process is described below.

  • A worker reports his/her refusal to the supervisor. The supervisor investigates the matter in the presence of a health and safety committee member.
  • If the supervisor agrees with the refusal, then corrective action is taken and, if the worker is satisfied, the worker returns to work.
  • If the supervisor does not agree or if the worker remains concerned about an actual or potential hazard, the supervisor notifies the Office of the Chief Risk Officer, who will notify the Ministry of Labour. Reasonable, alternate work may be assigned by the supervisor until the situation is resolved. The refused work may be assigned to another worker, provided that the second worker is informed of the work refusal and the reasons for it in the presence of the committee member.
  • Upon arrival of the Ministry of Labour inspector, all parties attend the scene and a written decision is provided by the Inspector. Necessary corrective action is implemented, if needed. The work refusal is then cancelled by the Inspector.

The process is visually depicted via the work refusal flowchart (PDF, 120KB).

Module 5.2 - Critical injuries

As was described in the definitions, a critical injury is an injury of a serious nature that

  • places life in jeopardy,
  • produces unconsciousness,
  • results in substantial loss of blood,
  • involves the fracture of a leg or arm but not a finger or toe,
  • involves the amputation of a leg, arm, hand or foot but not a finger or toe,
  • consists of burns to a major portion of the body, or
  • causes the loss of sight in an eye.

In the event of a critical injury, Protection Services must be immediately notified (ext. 5411). Protection will provide assistance to the caller and will attend the scene to secure it. Nothing should be touched, moved or otherwise obstructed unless it is for

  • saving life or relieving human suffering;
  • maintaining an essential public utility service or a public transportation system; or
  • preventing unnecessary damage to equipment or other property.

In some cases, an injury may not be readily apparent at the time of the intervention; contact Protection Services nonetheless. The internal process will take over. All events are investigated; however, there are specific requirements for injuries meeting the definition of a critical injury.

If the injury is confirmed to be a critical injury, the Ministry of Labour is notified by telephone by Risk Management; the scene may or may not be released to the University. If the scene continues to be held, no one is permitted to enter this space. It is important to note that there needs to be a reasonable nexus between the injury and the workplace; in other words, injuries occurring during a sporting activity or as a result of a personal medical condition are usually not considered as "critical injuries".

A written report is created by Risk Management and sent to the Ministry of Labour within 48 hours of the occurrence. Additional follow-up may be conducted by the Ministry of Labour with the worker, the supervisor, the University, the worker’s union, and / or the health and safety committee. Risk Management will coordinate the necessary activities; follow-up for any accident / incident is provided to the health and safety committee.

Module 5.3 - Follow-up investigations

Incident follow-ups, or investigations, are not the same as a criminal investigation. In a criminal investigation, the objective is to find the culprit, bring him/her to justice, provide society with deterrence etc.

In a safety investigation, or follow-up, the objective is to find the root cause of the incident, prevent a recurrence, and monitor the effectiveness of implemented controls. The incident follow-ups are generally conducted by the supervisor of the injured worker or, if no injury was sustained, the supervisor of the area where the incident occurred. The follow-up may be assisted by the Office of the Chief Risk Officer, the Faculty Health, Safety and Risk, Managers (HSRMs), health and safety committee members, or the Occupational Health Nurses for medical follow-ups or extended absences from work. As an example, assume a worker reports to his/her supervisor that he/she fell and injured his/her ankle on the sidewalk. The worker believes that he/she suffered a minor sprain, but nothing more. Should the supervisor investigate and follow-up further?

Of course! The supervisor should ask questions about this incident and try to determine why the worker fell. Some example of questions may include:

  • How did the incident occur?
  • Why did the worker fall?
  • Where was the worker standing?
  • What was the worker doing at the time?
  • What / who was around the worker?
  • Did anyone witness the incident?
  • Is anything wrong with the ground / floor / stairs?
  • What kind of footwear was the worker wearing (flip-flops / heels / sandals)?
  • Was it wet / snowy / icy? If yes why?
  • Are there any other situationally dependent factors?

In some cases, a site visit with the individual involved may be needed to better understand what happened and what might be able to be done to prevent a recurrence.

As mentioned, all events (including minor incidents) are investigated. Why is this done? The theory is that there are going to be several times more minor incidents than there will be major incidents. By addressing hazards that contribute to minor incidents, it is likely that you’ll reduce the number of major incidents.

The committee then helps analyze the collected data and assist in determining root causes. If additional action is needed, the committee may recommend additional control measures. The discussion and/or recommendations are included in the minutes of the committee and the situation is revisited at the next meeting. In determining a cause for an incident, it is important to note that there are several potential ways that an accident can occur; rarely does one single occurrence trigger an accident. Similarly, rarely does one accident yield one outcome.

Refer to the committee investigation process (PDF, 641KB).