Everyone in an organization has a part to play in keeping the workplace and each other safe.
When employers, supervisors, employees, and Joint Health & Safety Committees (JHSC) all work together to fulfil their health and safety responsibilities it can lead to benefits such as fewer injuries, improved morale, and better productivity.
This article will focus on how JHSCs contribute to workplace health and safety and how to help your JHSC be as effective as possible.
What is a JHSC?
A JHSC is composed of management and employee representatives who commit to improving health and safety conditions in the workplace.
Organizations in Ontario with 20 or more employees are required to have a JHSC with at least 2 certified members (one worker employee and one management). If your organization has more than 50 employees, your JHSC needs at least two certified members (one worker employee and one management) and at least two additional members.
These requirements also apply to organizations with remote workplaces or hybrid work arrangements. Learn more about JHSCs and remote work.
What is the JHSC responsible for?
JHSCs help raise awareness of health and safety issues, recognize and identify workplace risks, and develop recommendations for the employer to address these risks.
Some of the main responsibilities of a JHSC are:
- Identifying existing and potential hazards in the workplace.
Obtaining information about workplace health and safety from the employer.
- Inspecting the workplace regularly.
Investigating critical injuries or fatalities.
- Being consulted about and participating in any health and safety-related testing in the workplace (for example, air and noise sampling or mould and virus testing).
- Recommending health and safety improvements in the workplace.
Initiating a bilateral work stoppage.
- Consulting on the development of health and safety training.
- Communicating about health and safety to staff and employers.
How do you know if your JHSC is effective?
To be effective, JHSC needs to collaborate with employers, supervisors, and employees on health and safety concerns and policies.
Some signs of an effective JHSC are:
- The workplace is safe and promotes safe work practices
- Staff members know who the JHSC members are and what they do
- Staff members feel comfortable communicating with JHSC members about health and safety concerns
- Employers, supervisors, employees, and the JHSC work together to identify and address workplace hazards
To measure how effective your JHSC is, we suggest completing the JHSC Effectiveness Self-Assessment. This tool will help you reflect on your JHSC’s processes and areas that can be improved on, including:
- Workplace inspections
- Member participation
We recommend all members of your JHSC work together to complete the self-assessment.
How do you improve the effectiveness of your JHSC?
After you complete the JHSC Effectiveness Self-Assessment to identify areas your JHSC can improve upon, you can create a plan to address these different areas.
Use the JHSC Effectiveness Action Plan to outline the actions your JHSC will take to improve and who will be responsible for carrying them out.
Here are some tips and best practices to help you improve on some of the key responsibilities of your JHSC:
Tips for effective meetings
JHSC meetings allow members to discuss workplace inspections, procedures, and safety concerns and collaborate to improve health and safety in the workplace. JHSC members are required to meet at least once every three months. However, many organizations prefer to meet more frequently.
- Use an agenda and meeting minutes template to streamline meetings
- Encourage participation from all members during meetings. JHSCs need input from both employee and management members when trying to find effective ways to improve workplace health and safety.
- Establish a meeting schedule so members know the date, time, and location of meetings in advance.
- Ensure JHSC members are paid for any time they spend outside normal work hours preparing for and attending JHSC meetings. Members are considered to be at work when performing JHSC duties and are entitled to be compensated for this time.
Read more about requirements and best practices for JHSC meetings.
Tips for effective inspections
Inspections should be performed by employee members of the JHSCs as required under subsection 9(23) of the Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA). The JHSC must inspect the workplace at least once a month unless a different inspection frequency is ordered by the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD).
- Collaborate with non-JHSC staff members to create a customized checklist to help evaluate different areas of the workplace. Use this sample inspection checklist as a starting point to create a checklist customized to your workplace.
- Ask for the input of employees during an inspection and discuss the hazards they see or have reported.
- Ask for the input of employees when evaluating any planned changes to address potential hazards.
Learn more about the JHSC inspection process.
Tips for making recommendations
JHSCs are responsible for making health and safety recommendations to the employer. These recommendations could relate to specific health and safety training programs, improvements to equipment, modifications to policies and procedures, or ensuring past risks have been assessed.
- Identify the reason for the recommendation. Explain the issue, identify the department, and indicate how urgent the recommendation is.
- If the recommendation is related to legislation or standards, include the specific citations of legislation. This will underline the importance of addressing the issue.
- Provide a detailed solution for eliminating or controlling the issue. Identify what steps and resources are required, and indicate if you will need to bring in external support. Include timelines for solutions and any costs associated with external support.
- Provide any background information on the issue. For example, have there been any associated incidents or near-misses and any associated direct and indirect costs?
Tips for effective communication
Effective communication involves actively listening to others, developing appropriate responses, and sharing information in the workplace. When there is good communication between a JHSC and the workplace, employees are more likely to voice their concerns and suggestions to their JHSC.
- Create a board where the JHSC can post health and safety initiatives or celebrate successes.
- Create an email address for employees to send their concerns to their JHSC.
- Send anonymous email surveys to gather employee feedback on workplace health and safety issues.
- Establish regular open-door meetings for employees to touch base with JHSC members.
While these tips will help your JHSC carry out their duties more effectively, JHSCs need participation from everyone in the workplace to do their best work. Collaboration is key to creating a healthy and safe work environment, and support from employers and leadership must be provided to ensure your JHSC’s continued success. Encouraging regular communication, compensating JHSC members for their time, and providing proper JHSC training, are just some of the ways to keep your workplace compliant and your JHSC productive.