All members of your workforce need safety training. For example, workers need basic safety training plus training on their specific jobs. And supervisors need training on their safety duties. The same is true for members of the JHSC. An effective JHSC is a key component of an effective OHS program. And to fulfill duties such as participating in workplace inspections, making safety recommendations to the employer, addressing worker safety complaints, etc., JHSC members often need training. Here’s a look at the JHSC member training requirements and answers to five key questions about such requirements.
Defining Our Terms
In most jurisdictions, small employers that aren’t required to have JHSCs may be required to have a health and safety representative instead. Although the training requirements for JHSCs and such representatives may overlap or be similar, this article will focus on the committee member requirements only.
5 JHSC TRAINING QUESTIONS
Most jurisdictions’ OHS acts and/or regulations address the training of JHSC members to some degree. (See this chart for the requirements in each jurisdiction.) In addition, OHS regulatory agencies may publish guidelines on JHSCs, which recommend training or discuss member training in more detail. For example, Nova Scotia’s OHS laws simply say JHSC members are entitled to time off for training. But the province’s Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committees: A Practical Guide for Single Employer Workplaces discusses such training in more detail, including what topics the training should cover. Employers must comply with the training requirements in the OHS laws and should comply with the recommendations in such guidelines. And in any event, it’s likely a best practice to provide JHSC members with at least some basic training.
- Which Members Should Get Training?
A JHSC is comprised of worker members and employer members. In addition, many JHSCs are required to have chairpersons, who lead the committee. The OHS laws vary as to which of these members must be trained:
- All members. In a few jurisdictions, all JHSC members are required to get training. For example, in Newfoundland, employers must provide “certification” training for all JHSC members if there are 50 or more workers employed at the workplace and training to the JHSC chairpersons only if there are 10 to 49 workers.
- Leaders. The training requirement in some jurisdictions is limited to the “leaders” of the JHSC, such as the chairpersons. For example, Saskatchewan requires employers to ensure that the JHSC’s co-chairpersons get training on the committee’s duties and functions. Note that Ontario requires one worker and one employer member of the JHSC to get “certified”—that is, take special training on both general health and safety principles and hazards specific to their workplace. Ontario’s JHSC certified training program and provider standards were recently updated, with the changes taking effect on March 1, 2016. (For details, see “Ontario Sets New Training Standards & Requirements for JHSC Members.”)
The other divide is whether members are required to get the above training or simply must be permitted or allowed to attend training programs. For example, training for JHSC leaders is typically mandatory. But some jurisdictions merely require employers to let JHSC members take leave to attend training programs, seminars or courses, in some cases specifying exactly how many hours members are entitled to take (such as eight hours). Other jurisdictions don’t require but recommend that JHSC members get training.
Insider Says: The training requirements may not apply to the members of JHSCs at certain worksites, most notably construction projects.
- What Should the Training Cover?
Some OHS laws spell out exactly what topics JHSC member training should cover, while others don’t address the substance of training or just give vague generalities as to what such training should cover. However, as a general rule, JHSC member training should, at a minimum, address the following areas:
- An overview of the OHS laws and related regulations;
- Health and safety basics;
- The roles of the JHSC and the committee members under the law;
- The JHSC’s rules of procedure and requirements, such as the number of members it must have, how often it must meet, how to make recommendations to the employer, etc.;
- The role of the JHSC in inspections, hazard identification, incident investigations, worker complaints and work refusals;
- The company’s workplace safety policies and programs;
- Hazard identification and the hazards specific to your workplace and your industry; and
- Basic problem solving strategies and communications skills.
- Who Should Provide the Training?
In some jurisdictions, you may be able to provide the JHSC member training using in-house trainers such as your safety coordinator. In fact, many OHS regulators and workers’ comp boards provide training materials such as books, guidelines and pamphlets, that you can adapt and use to train JHSC members yourself. But a few jurisdictions, such as Ontario and Newfoundland, require you to use approved outside training providers. And others have approved and recommend that you use JHSC training courses provided by local colleges, safety associations, unions, or consultants.
- How Often Should Training Be Conducted?
Members of the JHSC should get training when they first join the committee. For example, New Brunswick requires employers to ensure that each person who’s designated to serve on a JHSC attends an educational program prescribed by the regulations within 12 months after being designated, if the person hasn’t previously attended such a program. And in the Yukon, an employer must orientate JHSC co-chairs to their functions and duties within 90 days of their selection. But it’s also wise to provide regular refresher training as well. In addition, “certified” members may be required to get regular review training every three years.
Insider Says: You may also be required to review your overall JHSC member training program on a regular basis, such as every three years.
- Are Workers Paid to Attend Training?
The short answer is yes. Across Canada, the OHS laws require employers to treat the time workers spend in JHSC training as if it was time spent performing their usual duties and thus pay them their regular wages for attending such training.
Your workplace and OHS program benefits if your JHSC members are properly trained and therefore better equipped to perform their roles and handle their responsibilities. So taking steps to ensure that your JHSC members get appropriate training is in your company’s best interest—and is a smart investment.