Terms of Reference – a Guide for Effective Joint Health & Safety Committees (JHSC)

What is a Terms of Reference?

A terms of reference is a written statement that describes the function of the joint health and safety committee (JHSC) and outlines the procedures that the JHSC will follow.

Why does the JHSC need a Terms of Reference?

A JHSC is comprised of many moving parts. A terms of reference helps to ensure that the JHSC operates consistently, and in accordance with the Act. It’s a great way to ensure that nothing important is ever missed. It also provides a point of reference (hence the name, terms of reference) any time there is a disagreement or a question about how to proceed.

Is a Terms of Reference Required Under the Act?

While a terms of reference isn’t a legislative requirement, an effective JHSC should have one. It is important that the terms of reference aligns with the Act and the requirements within. Think of the terms of reference as your JHSC’s rules of engagement. It’s a framework that includes: the names of the members, what they’re supposed to do, and how they’re supposed to do it.

What is Included on a Terms of Reference?

A terms of reference should include:

Committee Structure

  • Composition (ideal number of worker and management members)
  • Election and selection processes
  • Length of terms
  • Who requires what training

Workplace Inspections

  • Schedule
  • Checklist
  • Report Template
  • Follow-up processes

Committee Meetings

  • Schedule
  • Location
  • Quorum (the minimum number of members need to run a meeting)
  • Process for writing and submitting recommendations
  • Name of minute taker
  • Timelines for posting minutes to the safety board
  • Follow-up procedures

Accident Investigations

  • Role of the designated member
  • Process for investigations
  • Reporting requirements

A copy of the terms of reference should be provided to each member of the committee and be made available at every meeting. New members should review the terms of reference as part of their JHSC onboarding. Along with the information and processes listed above, the terms of reference should also include the number of desired worker and management members and the number of members required to have adequate representation from all shifts and departments. It may also include the designation or election process for co-chairs, the role of the secretary, incident investigators, and workplace inspectors.

When it comes to running an effective JHSC, a terms of reference is an invaluable tool. It ensures that the JHSC knows what to do, and how to do it. This allows the JHSC to focus on what is really important: identifying hazards, making recommendations, participating in workplace inspections, and acting as an advisory voice to ensure health, safety, and wellness for the entire workforce.

Written by Jennifer Miller | Curriculum Development Coordinator


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