There are countless benefits of having an effective and diverse joint health and safety committee (JHSC). But, what if despite all of the benefits and your best efforts to help people see how wonderful the JHSC is, you still can’t find employees that want to join the JHSC at your workplace?
Ensure You Have an Active Committee
The tried and true method of making sure that people want to join the JHSC is making sure that the existing JHSC is active. If employees see the JHSC functioning as a cohesive unit, and they understand how the JHSC contributes to the workplace safety program, they’ll be keen to join. But, what if despite your best efforts no one wants to join the JHSC?
Ask some workers and managers why they don’t want to join the committee. Sometimes, it’s a result of misunderstanding what JHSC membership is all about. Some common myths about being on the JHSC that workers may believe include:
- Being on the JHSC will make me liable if there’s a workplace accident
- I will get in trouble if I make recommendations that my employer disagrees with
- It’s extra work that I won’t get paid for
- I don’t know the first thing about workplace safety, so my contribution isn’t valuable
- The JHSC doesn’t really do anything or make a real difference
Clarify the Contribution
When it comes to dispelling JHSC myths like those listed above, it’s all about communication. Helping people understand what committee membership is—and what it isn’t—helps employees understand the commitment they are making, how it benefits them, and how their contribution benefits the organization. If no one wants to join the JHSC at your workplace, start by explaining the following:
How the JHSC contributes to the overall workplace safety program:
The JHSC is an important component in the internal responsibility system (IRS). Their objective is to identify hazards and recommend controls. Worker members have the opportunity to act as advocates for other workers and represent their collective voice when it comes to safety concerns and improvements in the workplace.
The personal benefits and training opportunities that accompany JHSC membership:
A worker who doesn’t want to join the JHSC because they feel that they don’t know enough should be reassured that training will be provided. There are opportunities for JHSC certification training. Many companies certify all JHSC members so that everyone has the training required to be successful. Yet, even if your organization has enough certified members, many companies opt to provide non-certification training to members who don’t require full certification. What’s more is that when you get certified, you stay certified, provided you satisfy all of the Ministry of Labour’s requirements to keep training valid, including taking refresher training if applicable. That means your certified status remains with you, even if you change employers. And, it’s a great way to enhance your resume.
JHSC Members are not liable for workplace accidents if they act in good faith
Workers who suspect that joining the JHSC will make them liable for workplace accidents and the resulting injuries, fatalities, property damage can be reassured that the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the Act) holds multiple workplace parties accountable for safety in the workplace. In fact, JHSC members are protected by the Act from reprisal or liability, provided they act in good faith. For workers who are still hesitant to join, remind them that certification training includes health, safety, and the law, so that all JHSC members know how the legislation protects them, and how their efforts will contribute to improving safety in the workplace.
The expected time commitment
The best way to get a realistic idea of how much time is spent on JHSC committees at your work is to ask an active JHSC member! If employees see that current JHSC members are able to manage their work and their committee duties, it will help potential members better understand the time involved. However, should this be a sticking point, be ready to explain the exact schedule the JHSC follows, including workplace inspections and meetings.
JHSC members get time to complete JHSC duties, and they get paid
For workers refraining from joining the JHSC because they don’t feel that they have time, explain that the JHSC is entitled under the Act to time required to complete JHSC duties, such as conducting a workplace inspection, updating the safety board, reviewing an agenda, or typing up some minutes. As well, time spent on JHSC tasks is to be paid time.
What if you still have no takers?
Can I incentivize workers to get them to join the JHSC?
Sure, but if you choose to incentivize the completion JHSC duties, you must ensure that all JHSC members receive the same incentive. However, incentives may be unnecessary, and there are better ways. Instead of thinking of rewards, consider keeping the JHSC motivated through training, team-building, and acts of gratitude.
Can I choose workers and instruct them to join the JHSC?
Definitely not. JHSC membership is voluntary. “Volun-telling” a worker that they must be on the JHSC is prohibited. There must be a democratic method in place that allows workers to select or approve the JHSC members that will be their workplace safety advocates. Section 9(8) of the Act states that worker members of the JHSC are to be selected by other workers, except in the cases where the workers are represented by a trade union. There are many democratic ways to select JHSC members.
Implement an Onboarding and Offboarding program for JHSC
You won’t regret it! Having an onboarding program to ensure that new members are properly ushered into the JHSC is a key method in getting workers to step forward. It is especially effective to have other JHSC members involved in onboarding news members so that they can describe their experiences and explain how they have an impact on workplace safety. An offboarding program will prove infinitely valuable as well, as it may indicate areas where communication needs to be strengthened.
Let employees see for themselves
Consider a shadow term to allow workers to try out the JHSC for a month or two. Then, use that time to show members how much their contribution matters. You could also encourage them to sit in on a meeting or inspection.
Many people have been affected by workplace tragedies or know someone who has, so they have a vested interest in doing what they can to prevent accidents and illnesses. But, if your organization struggles to fill vacancies on the committee, consider that the objection to the committee may be based in miscommunication. Resolve to recruit JHSC members by showing them how well the committee functions, how it contributes to the overall workplace safety program, and how it serves members and employees alike in the quest for safer, happier workplaces.
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