Report Released on Saskatchewan’s Workplace Responsibility System

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Lest you think that Ontario is the only jurisdiction taking a long, hard look at its OHS system, Saskatchewan hired a consultant to review its workplace responsibility system and offer recommendations for improving it. The results of that review were just released.

You’ll notice that there’s some overlap between the Saskatchewan report and Ontario’s Dean Commission Report. For example, both note that workers need to be more aware of their rights, especially the right to refuse dangerous work. However, while the Dean Commission focused on government and the enforcement of OHS laws, the Saskatchewan consultant focused on what was happening within workplaces in terms of workplace safety and how government was supporting employers’ safety efforts.

Reason for Review

The Saskatchewan government commissioned the Workplace Responsibility System (WRS) Research Project to assess:

  1. The factors that contribute to the effectiveness of the WRS in providing a collaborative way for employers and workers to identify and control hazards;
  2. How these factors can be enhanced in different workplace environments and contribute to reducing injury and illness rates in these environments; and
  3. Ways to strengthen these contributions.

To achieve these objectives, the consultant conducting the study used the following research methods, including telephone surveys, interviews, focus group discussions, an analysis of JHSC minutes and an analysis of injury rates.

KEY FINDINGS

Here’s an overview of the consultant’s key findings:

Factors related to WRS Effectiveness

The following factors are important contributors to an effective WRS:

  • General attitudes regarding injury prevention
  • Management attitude and systems that support occupational health and safety
  • Worker involvement, such as through JHSCs.

The following factors affecting the effectiveness of JHSCs in particular:

  • Participation and a broad mandate
  • Training and education
  • Clear, sustained communications.

Assessment of the WRS in Saskatchewan

Survey responses indicated that:

  • Overall, the WRS of Saskatchewan workplaces was rated as “fair”
  • JHSCs were generally “good” at identifying hazards, resolving safety concerns and having committee meeting minutes that reflect the issues discussed
  • The effectiveness of the written health and safety program, inspections and investigations, and the awareness of the right to refuse were “fair”
  • The main finding from the analysis of JHSC meeting minutes was that the majority of workplace minutes didn’t indicate short‐term or long‐term recommendations. Likewise, the majority didn’t identify if the issues had been resolved

WRS Effectiveness in Different Work Environments

The consultant looked at WRS effectiveness in different workplaces based on:

Size. Very large workplaces were rated as having a weaker WRS overall than other sized organizations. Very large organizations were also the weakest in terms of committee involvement in hazard identification and in resolving safety concerns. An awareness of the right to refuse was lowest in smaller organizations and increased with organization size. Smaller organizations were unlikely to conduct inspections and  investigations. The likelihood that an organization was doing inspections—and particularly investigations—increased with workplace size.

Sector. Only the industrial and manufacturing sectors were rated as having a “good” overall WRS. Other sectors were rated as only “fair.” The agricultural sector had the lowest overall WRS rating and was particularly weak in terms of doing successful incident investigations. Healthcare was rated as “fair” in terms of the effectiveness of written health and safety programs and doing successful incident investigations. The service and manufacturing sectors were also only “fair” in terms of doing incident investigations.

Services to Enhance WRS Effectiveness

Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Division training was rated as “good” by small companies and companies in the industrial and manufacturing sectors. Training was rated “fair” by other sized companies and in other sectors. Very large companies and companies in the agriculture sector rated this training the lowest.

An awareness of OHS Division products was “good” for very small and very large companies, but only fair in companies with between 10 to 250 workers, and for companies in the agriculture and service sectors. Participation in supervisory training was lowest for very small companies (< 10 workers) and in the agricultural and service sectors.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Workplaces, the OHS Division and related agencies should continue their efforts to improve worker and OHC empowerment and participation in resolving issues.

2. Workplaces, the OHS Division and related agencies should improve strategies, training and other services to enhance OHC effectiveness in the following areas:

  • Identifying and addressing hazards, especially in larger workplaces, and in the agriculture sector
  • Documentation and follow‐up on short- and long-term recommendations
  • Communications between workplace parties
  • More incident investigations, especially in smaller workplaces, and in the service, manufacturing and healthcare sectors
  • Skills to conduct effective inspections and incident investigations
  • Skills to run effective JHSC meetings, be effective JHSC members, including how to effectively address and resolve conflict.

3. Workplaces, the OHS Division and related agencies should take steps to improve the perception of:

  • The relevance of occupational health and safety, especially in sectors that have a high risk, but a low risk perception
  • Injuries being preventable.

4. Workplaces, the OHS Division and related agencies should improve strategies and services to increase the effectiveness of written health and safety programs, particularly in very large workplaces, and in the healthcare and agriculture sectors.

5. Workplaces, the OHS Division and related agencies need to increase workers’ awareness of their legal right to refuse unsafe work, especially in smaller workplaces and in the service sector.

6. Workplaces, the OHS Division and related agencies should take steps to increase the awareness about OHS Division products and services, especially in businesses with 10 to 50 workers, and in the agriculture and service sectors.

7. The OHS Division and related agencies should take steps to make training and other  communications more meaningful and relevant.

8. The OHS Division and related agencies should focus communications with the senior management of workplaces on increasing their commitment and improving the safety culture.

9. The OHS Division and related agencies should take steps to make training, publications and other communications more user friendly, consistent, and up‐to‐date, such as using more varied methods for delivering training, including e‐learning methods.

10. The OHS Division and related agencies should coordinate training provincially to limit overlap, duplication and conflict.

11. Workplaces, the OHS Division and related agencies should increase access to supervisory training, especially for smaller organizations and organizations in the agriculture and service sectors.

12. The OHS Division should seek input from stakeholders more regularly on the development of products and services and on their evaluation.