Occupational Health and Safety Basics for Human Resources (HR) Professionals: Part 2 – Supporting

Many people associate Human Resources (HR) professionals with tasks such as hiring, conducting performance reviews, coaching, and the ever-dreaded task of terminating people. This is a very simplified list of tasks that may fall to a company’s HR professional. One task that some people may be surprised to learn falls to most HR professionals is supporting the company’s health and safety program.

In part 1 of this 2-part series, we looked at where you should start. In part 2, we will look to expand even further and examine how HR can support health and safety within an organization.

1. Supporting the administration of a health and safety program

There are many elements and levels of an active and well-exercised health and safety program, and many opportunities for HR to work in collaboration with their organization’s safety professionals. Both HR and safety professionals have much of the same training when it comes to task observation, safe operating procedure development and enforcement, training, communication, meeting planning, leadership and continuous improvement and streamlining to create a safer work environment and stronger efficiencies. Therefore, it may be more efficient to leave the administration side of the health and safety programs to HR, while the safety professionals handle the technical aspects.

2. Supporting WSIB claims, assisting with modified duties, implementing return-to-work programs, and administering health benefit programs

One of the core competencies that HR professionals in Ontario must be proficient in is designing and administering compensation and benefits programs that help drive an organization toward its goal. HR professionals are the experts in health benefit programs, and they can be leaned on for support in this area. In addition, and HR professional is well equipped to help employers understand and complete WSIB reports and claims, and develop and implement return to work programs, especially those requiring accommodation for the worker. HR professionals are well-trained in accommodating disabilities, and their expertise in this area is a benefit to any health and safety department.

3. Supporting workers and worker rights

As an HR professional, supporting workers is the cornerstone of what you do! Whether it is performance coaching, training, and development, or just offering general encouragement, you’re there for the workers. One way of showing support is listening to safety-related concerns, discussing them, and implementing an administrative control if appropriate. You may also wish to develop workers with a passion for health and safety by providing training and professional development opportunities. In addition to support, an HR professional must also be abreast of worker rights, which include the right to know, the right to participate, and the right to refuse unsafe work. Be an active part of work refusal to develop an understanding of how job tasks can be made safer.

4. Scheduling training, training compliance, and record keeping

Another core competency of the HR professional is development and training. This means that HR professionals are the pros when it comes to identifying training gaps and needs, scheduling and booking training, ensuring that all legislated training is up-to-date, that training certificates are valid or renewed – they can even book the space required. And while facilitating safety (and other) training is the HR professional’s specialty, they are also master training record keepers. Record keeping is an organizational task that some organizations fall short on, but HR professionals come trained to do just that. Many HR professionals are well versed in organizational software that allows for electronic record keeping, automatic reminders of upcoming expiries, and identifying training gaps, which will allow for exceptional legislative compliance with training requirements.

5. Supporting an active and positive safety culture

Safety culture is perhaps the most important driving force behind a healthy and safe workplace. It means that safety is taken seriously and practiced by all. It also means that every staff – from line workers to CEOs, take safety seriously and feel that are a part of the Internal Responsibility System that is accountable for their own safety and that of their fellow workers. Supporting an active and positive safety culture isn’t just the job of the health and safety department; in fact, left just to one department, it will fail. Supporting and fostering safety culture is the job of all departments, and HR can play a huge role in making safety a top priority. Ensure that health and safety is part of your onboarding program, incentivize safe work practices as part of your total reward package, and encourage reporting, training, and an active JHSC.

While HR and health and safety have historically been seen as two separate entities, they are closely related and even interdependent. HR professionals have a lot to offer regarding health and safety program development, implementation, and enforcement. Knowing the basics of what an HR professional can offer to a health and safety program is a great place to start!

Written by Jennifer Miller | Curriculum Development Coordination


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