Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) members and the Ministry of Labour (MOL) share a common goal: they both want to ensure that workplaces are safe, and workers return home at the end of the day free from injury or illness. One of the ways that the MOL achieves their goal is by conducting unscheduled inspections – blitzes or otherwise. Sometimes the MOL comes to the workplace to investigate because a work refusal has been reported. While it can be intimidating to see a MOL Inspector walk up to your worksite, remember that you both have the same goal of a safe and healthy workplace.
As per the Occupational Health and Safety Act, s.54, any MOL Inspector may:
- Enter a workplace at any time without notice
- Use equipment or machinery
- Take photographs and/or samples
- Ask questions of anyone
- Require objects and devices to be tested
What is the JHSC’s Role During an Unannounced MOL Inspection?
If you see a MOL Inspector approaching your workplace, welcome them. Get off on the right foot by being helpful and friendly. A designated member of the JHSC is entitled to accompany the Inspector during their inspection. The employer and any worker may participate in inspections by answering the Inspector’s questions to the best of their knowledge and promptly provided any documentation requested. Commonly requested documents include:
- JHSC meeting minutes
- Inspection reports
- Health and safety policies and procedures
- First-aid records
- Training records
- Hygiene test results
- Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)
- Accident/Incident reports
What is the JHSC’s Role During a MOL Work Refusal Investigation?
If a work refusal could not be resolved following the employer’s investigation (s.43(4)), a MOL Inspector must be called in. The Inspector will investigate the work refusal in consultation with the employer and other specified parties. A JHSC member should also be present and active during the investigation.
During a MOL inspection, JHSC members should ensure that obstruction is not occurring. The Occupational Health and Safety Act s.62 states that no person shall hinder, obstruct, molest, or interfere with, or attempt to hinder, obstruct, molest, or interfere with a MOL Inspector. JHSC members may be instrumental in ensuring that the Inspector is not obstructed. Obstruction includes:
- Hindering, molesting, or interfering with investigation efforts
- Withholding information
- Tampering with evidence
- Falsifying or modifying information
- Misleading Inspectors
- Falsifying documents
What Does the JHSC do After the Inspector Leaves?
If Orders were written:
The JHSC may advise the employer on a plan for achieving compliance. Once compliance is achieved, the employer has three days to submit a Notice of Compliance to the MOL (s.59). The Notice of compliance must be signed by the worker and management members of the JHSC, and must be posted for a minimum of 14 days after its submission to the MOL. If you feel that an appeal of the Order is appropriate, it must be filed with the Ontario Labour Relation Board within 30 days.
Whether or not Orders were written:
The JHSC is entitled to receive a copy of any report generated by the MOL during or after an inspection. The JHSC should call a meeting to go over the findings in the report. This gives the JHSC the opportunity to make any applicable recommendations, and discuss what went well during the inspection, and what can be improved upon for the next time. For example, when the Inspector asked for SDSs, were they easily located? If not, perhaps they need to be moved to a more neutral location.
If you have questions about the JHSC’s role during or after a MOL inspection, or how to ensure that your workplace is in tip-top shape for a surprise inspection, OSG can help. We have been successfully training JHSC members for over 20 years, and we are the largest private provider of JHSC committee certification training in Ontario. When it comes to JHSC – we know our stuff! Call 1.800.815.9980 to speak to one of our health and safety experts today, or view our JHSC Part 1 or Part 2 training online now.
Written by Jennifer Miller | Curriculum Development Coordinator