Occupational Health and Safety Basics for Human Resources (HR) Professionals: Part 1

Occupational Health and Safety Basics for Human Resources (HR) Professionals: Part 1

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 managing the company’s health and safety program. Most HR professionals looking after health and safety are not safety experts themselves, and yet the crossover between HR and health and safety is more prevalent today than ever before. 

Where to Start?

An HR Professional in a small-medium sized company may be responsible for managing health and safety company-wide without any support from a dedicated safety expert. For some, it may be their first exposure to health and safety program management, which may be overwhelming.

Where to start? OSG can help. Below, we’ve listed everything an HR Professional needs to know to build a solid foundation from which to manage their company’s health and safety program.

Federal or Provincial?

The best place to start is determining the legislation that applies to your workplace. For almost all workplaces in Ontario, that’s the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), and the regulations contained within. However, banks, air transport, rail, government operations, and postal services, etc. are covered federally by the Canada Labour Code. Knowing the legislation that applies to your workplace is a great starting point.


Once you’ve determined the legislation that applies to your organization, it’s time to comply. In Ontario, WHMIS, Worker Awareness, Workplace Violence and Harassment, and AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) are mandatory training requirements for almost all workers. In addition to the training requirements, legislation dictates the specific duties of employers, supervisor/managers, workers, JHSCs (Joint Health and Safety Committees), as well as the requirement to have a health and safety program, a workplace violence and harassment program, and a system for (at least) annual review of those programs to ensure continued effectiveness. The OHSA lays out what is required by industry, and the regulations offer guidance for compliance.

Get your Health and Safety Board Together

Under the OHSA, there are posting requirements that must be met. If your organization doesn’t have a health and safety board, create one. If you already have a health and safety board, ensure that it is up-to-date. Below is a list of items that must be posted:

  • Health and Safety at Work: Prevention Starts Here Poster
  • The Green Book (Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act)
  • Your organization’s Health and Safety Policy
  • Your organization’s Workplace Violence and Harassment Policy
  • The names and work locations of all members of the JHSC
  • In case of Injury (Form 81) Poster
  • Employment Standards in Ontario Poster

Establish a JHSC

If your workplace has 20 or more workers, you need a JHSC. If one doesn’t exist, help establish one by coordinating certification training, meeting times and space, etc. If they require your support and leadership for the first couple meetings, offer that – or better yet, join the JHSC yourself! If a JHSC exists, support it as required.

Organize and Track Training

One of an HR professional’s biggest strengths is record keeping. Keeping records, using training and tracking software, and other human resources software is right in the HR professional’s wheelhouse. Apply your skills in this area to track training, identify gaps, and keep on top of renewal and expiry dates for all workers.

Complete a JHA

Taking on the management of an entire health and safety program can be daunting, but completing a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) can really assist you in identifying the problem areas/hazards that need your attention right away. It will give you the chance to make conclusions about eliminating and controlling hazards. Completing a JHA has many benefits:

  • Identification of areas of concern
  • Provide a basis for recommendations
  • Teaching and training aid
  • Increased knowledge
  • Acts as a great starting point for developing policies and procedures

Download our free JHA template

Policies and Procedures

Once you’ve addressed all of your basic starting points as listed above, you will be in a great position to begin developing policies and the programs and procedures to support the policies in order to facilitate excellent management of your organization’s health and safety program.

Today’s HR professionals play an important role in many organizations’ overall success, including the effective management of health and safety companies. In many cases, the entire responsibility for the program can fall to the HR professional. The above starting points will give any HR professional a strong start out of the gate.

Written by Jennifer Miller | Curriculum Development Coordination

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