One of the consequences of the 2009 Christmas Eve industrial accident, that saw five workers fall thirteen stories resulting in four fatalities, was a heightened political awareness of the deficiencies in our current workplace health and safety prevention laws and strategies. As a result of that heightened awareness, the premier of Ontario ordered a study about those deficiencies and requested recommendations to try and improve our society’s track-record in that regard. That study has come to be known as the Dean Report.
Bill 160 was largely a reflection of the government’s adoption of the ideas contained in the Dean Report, and its intention to implement those ideas. One of the key recommendations was that requisite Health and Safety Commitee Certification Training be extended to include worker health and safety representatives from companies and organizations with less than twenty employees. Prior to Bill 160, in Ontario, only organizations with twenty or more employees were required to have Joint Health and Safety Committee members that were certified in specific topics related to safety in the workplace. Since these smaller businesses comprise a majority of the companies that power our economy, this push for greater dissemination of heath and safety knowledge was seen as an important way to increase the profile of this vital subject among a wider segment of society.
While it remains to be seen what training will exactly be required, by the new chief safety prevention officer and his council, we can speculate about topics that might logically be expected to be addressed. First and foremost, would be a description of the IRS – the Internal Responsibility System, and its significance to our understanding of modern Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) systems management. Everything we do within a corporation to achieve our goal of an accident-free workplace is predicated on this fundamental concept. No health and safety training program would be complete without a full explanation and understanding of its significance to the “safety culture” of a modern workplace.
Another reasonable expectation would be an exploration of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and associated regulations. This would include an exploration of the organization and structure of the green book; as well as a description of the duties and responsibilities of the workplace parties explicitly named in the Act – employers, supervisors, workers and health and safety representatives. It is important that H/S reps have an understanding of who is responsible for doing what in the context of a workplace health and safety setting; as well as knowing how to locate original legal source materials.
Ultimately, OHS boils down to hazards. The identification and control of workplace hazards must be a key ingredient in the transfer of knowledge to our newly certified representatives. How to inspect a workplace and identify things that are capable of causing injury or disease in workers and how to control those identified hazards so they do not cause injury or disease. Hazard control can also be the result of insightful accident investigation. Such insight can be obtained through a thorough knowledge of the process of accident investigation and how to “chase down” the root causes of workplace accidents and incidents.
OSG stands ready to provide companies, and their elected worker representatives, with the necessary knowledge that will provide a solid understanding of basic health and safety concepts. This knowledge can only help small businesses to come into legal compliance and reduce the number, and cost, of workplace accidents; and that is a good thing for all of society – employer and worker alike.