What Are ‘Rules of Procedure’ & Why Your Committee Needs Them?

0
78

To ensure that your company’s JHSC can effectively and efficiently fulfill its functions, it should set “rules of procedure” (also called “terms of reference”) that specify, among other things, how long members will serve on the committee, how meetings will be run and how conflicts will be resolved. Rules of procedure not only enable the JHSC to carry out its vital functions effectively but also are required under the OHS laws of some jurisdictions.

As safety coordinator, you should ensure that your company’s JHSC has rules of procedure—even if it’s not specifically required by your jurisdiction. With the help of Ontario OHS consultant Yvonne O’Reilly, we’ll explain the rules of procedure requirements in the OHS laws and how to ensure that your company’s JHSC has comprehensive rules of procedure. There’s a chart at the end of the article that tells you the rules of procedure requirements in each part of Canada. And there’s a questionnaire the JHSC can complete to help develop their rules of procedure.

OHSINSIDER: Members of www.OHSInsider.com can access various resources, including guidance published by various jurisdictions on JHSCs, a Model Checklist of the areas your JHSC’s rules of procedure should cover, a Model Questionnaire of questions to answer when creating rules of procedure and Model Rules of Procedure and Model Rules of Procedure2.

Defining Our Terms

Canadian jurisdictions use different terms to refer to a joint health and safety committee, including workplace committee, joint worksite health and safety committee, joint occupational health and safety committee, joint committee and just committee. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll use the acronym JHSC throughout the article to refer to such committees.

WHAT THE LAW SAYS

Every jurisdiction spells out certain requirements for JHSCs in its OHS statute. But not all of them specifically require JHSCs to create rules of procedure:

5 jurisdictions that require rules of procedure. The OHS laws in five jurisdictions—Fed, BC, MB, NS and PE—require JHSCs to create their own rules of procedure. For example, under BC’s Workers’ Compensation Act, a JHSC must establish its own rules of procedure, including rules on how it’ll perform its duties and functions. And under the federal Canada Labour Code, a JHSC must establish rules of procedure on the terms of office of its members and holding of regular meetings and may establish any other rules of procedures it considers advisable.

The OHS laws in these jurisdictions don’t go into any detail about what the actual rules should cover. However, government guidelines in MB, NS and PE flesh out the requirements.

9 jurisdictions that don’t require rules of procedure. The remaining nine jurisdictions—AB, NB, NL, NT, NU, ON, QC, SK and YT—don’t require JHSCs to develop their own rules of procedure. Québec’s OHS law does say that if JHSCs don’t create their own rules of procedure, they must use the ones set out in the regulations. The OHS laws in the other eight jurisdictions don’t address rules of procedure at all. But some of them do recommend in guidelines that JHSCs develop rules of procedure. For example, New Brunswick’s guidelines say, “To ensure effectiveness, a committee needs organizational support, comprehensive terms of reference, and a means of self-assessment.” And Saskatchewan’s guidelines suggest that committees develop “operating rules” on topics such as how priorities will be set and how disagreements will be handled.

CREATING RULES OF PROCEDURE

O’Reilly believes that all JHSCs should have rules of procedure—whether they’re specifically required or not. Procedures provide “structure that allows the committee to function well,” she explains. Rules of procedure should address all of the JHSC’s functions. So when a situation involving the committee arises, such as a safety incident or work refusal, committee members won’t have to “wing it.” Instead, a system will already be in place to help the JHSC effectively respond to that situation.

In addition, O’Reilly says without rules of procedure, the chairs or co-chairs of the JHSC may wind up running everything, thus marginalizing the rest of the committee. Creating the rules of procedure engages all members of the JHSC and helps them to understand their roles on the committee, she explains.

How to Create Rules of Procedure

Depending on the size of the JHSC, either the entire committee can be involved in creating the rules of procedure or a subcommittee can compile draft rules and present them to the rest of the committee, says O’Reilly. In either case, those involved in drafting the rules of procedure should consider two things:

Existing rules of procedure. If your JHSC is brand-spanking new, say, because the company is new or wasn’t previously required to have a JHSC, then it will have to start from scratch. But if the JHSC has been in place for awhile, then it may already have rules of procedure. The new JHSC members can use the existing rules of procedure as a starting point. However, O’Reilly says the JHSC should update and revise the existing rules to reflect changes in the OHS laws and the workplace. In particular, she says the mission statement (more on this subject later) should reflect the most current JHSC’s goals.

OHS law. The OHS laws often spell out the JHSC’s duties and requirements in detail. And the JHSC’s rules of procedure can’t contradict or override those requirements. For example, if the jurisdiction’s OHS law requires the JHSC to meet monthly, then the rules of procedure can’t provide for only quarterly meetings.

What Rules Should Cover

The JHSC’s rules of procedure should, at a minimum, cover all of its legal requirements and duties, such as conducting meetings and inspections and issuing recommendations to management. But O’Reilly notes that the OHS laws should just be a jumping off point. Comprehensive rules should go beyond the basic legal requirements. For example, she always recommends the inclusion of a preamble to the rules of procedure that reiterates the role of the JHSC, the employer’s accountability and workers’ obligation to report safety concerns and hazards to their supervisors.

O’Reilly also recommends that the rules of procedure include a mission statement explaining what the JHSC hopes to achieve. And this mission statement should be tailored for each new committee, she adds. Sample mission statements:

  • “The members of the Committee strive to make the workplace safer and healthier for all, serve as a communication link between management and staff and function as a problem-solving team”;
  • “The JHSC is committed to promoting the highest standards of Occupational Health and Safety in the workplace with professionalism and objectivity”; and
  • “The Committee’s objectives are to:
    • Together with the employer, reduce the incidence of injury and illness of employees;
    • Improve the understanding of occupational health and safety standards by all workplace parties; and
    • Improve health and safety conditions in the workplace by means of promotion, research, inspection, investigation and by providing recommendations.”

In addition, the rules of procedure should cover the following areas:

Committee membership. Address the committee’s membership, including the number of members, the composition of the members (i.e., workers’ representatives v. employer representatives), how long members will serve and whether their terms will be staggered. O’Reilly suggests that the rules also cover alternate members, including the number of alternates, their selection process and how they can be used. (For more on compliance with JHSC membership requirements, see Insider, Vol. 2, Issue 8.)

Meetings. Holding regular meetings is one of the JHSC’s key functions. So much of the rules of procedure will be devoted to meetings, including:

  • Frequency of regular meetings;
  • Procedure for calling special or emergency meetings;
  • Setting the agenda;
  • Conduct of the meeting, including how motions and decisions are made and how disagreements will be resolved;
  • Attendance of guests at meetings; and
  • Minutes, such as who takes them, maintenance of minutes and communication of them to the employer and workers.

Recommendations to employer. The rules of procedure should spell out the process to be used for making formal recommendations to the employer and the language to be used in those recommendations. For example, JHSC recommendations to the employer on health and safety issues shouldn’t merely be incorporated in the minutes of a JHSC meeting, says O’Reilly. Recommendations should be made to the employer in a separate document.

Inspections and investigations. JHSCs should conduct regular inspections of the workplace and participate in the investigation of safety incidents when they occur. So the rules of procedure should address:

  • The frequency of inspections;
  • Their scope;
  • The participants, including non-committee members and outside consultants;
  • Hazard assessment methods;
  • Documentation of the results; and
  • Communication of the results.

The rules on investigations should cover many of the same areas as inspections.

Work refusals. In most jurisdictions, the JHSC is required to play a role in the handling of work refusals. Thus, the rules of procedure should cover this process.

Training. In many jurisdictions, JHSC members are required to get training. But even if training isn’t required, it’s still a good idea. The rules of procedure should cover the training new committee members should get as well as refresher training. (For more on JHSC training requirements, see Insider, Vol. 2, Issue 12.)

OHSINSIDER: Members of www.OHSInsider.com can access various resources, including guidance published by various jurisdictions on JHSCs, a Model Checklist of the areas your JHSC’s rules of procedure should cover, a Model Questionnaire of questions to answer when creating rules of procedure and Model Rules of Procedure and Model Rules of Procedure2.

Conclusion

As a safety coordinator, you have a vital stake in ensuring that your JHSC complies with all OHS requirements, including those relating to rules of procedure. But on a more practical level, it’s in your best interest for the JHSC to run as effectively as possible. And having comprehensive rules of procedure will go a long way toward making your company’s JHSC a well-oiled machine.

Know the Laws of Your Province

RULES OF PROCEDURE REQUIREMENTS

Here’s what the OHS law in your province or territory says about rules of procedure for JHSCs:

FEDERAL: A workplace health and safety committee must establish its own rules of procedure on: a) the terms of office for members (not to exceed two years); and b) time, place and frequency of regular meetings. The committee may establish any rules of procedure for its operation that it considers advisable [Canada Labour Code, Sec. 135.1(14)].

ALBERTA: OHS laws don’t require JHSCs to have terms of reference or rules of procedure.

BRITISH COLUMBIA: A joint committee must establish its own rules of procedure, including rules respecting how it will perform its duties and functions [Workers’ Compensation Act, Sec. 131(1)].

MANITOBA: A committee must establish written rules of procedure for carrying out its duties under the Act [Workplace Health and Safety Reg., Sec. 3.6(1)]. Those rules must provide for: a) regular committee meetings and the day, time and place of the meetings; b) the procedure to be followed and the type and amount of notice to be given to change the day, time or place of a regular meeting; and c) rules respecting the conduct of committee meetings [Sec. 3.6(2)].

NEW BRUNSWICK: OHS laws don’t require JHSCs to have terms of reference or rules of procedure.

NEWFOUNDLAND/LABRADOR: OHS laws don’t require JHSCs to have terms of reference or rules of procedure.

NORTHWEST TERRITORIES/NUNAVUT: OHS laws don’t require JHSCs to have terms of reference or rules of procedure.

NOVA SCOTIA: A committee must establish its own rules of procedure [OHS Act, Sec. 30(7)]. The rules of procedure must include an annual determination of the method of selecting the person or persons who’ll: a) chair the committee; and b) hold the position of chair for the coming year [Sec. 30(9)]. Where agreement isn’t reached on the rules of procedure, the Director of Occupational Safety will determine the matter [Sec. 30(10)].

ONTARIO: OHS laws don’t require JHSCs to have terms of reference or rules of procedure.

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND: A committee must establish its own rules of procedure [OHS Act, Sec. 25(12)].

QUÉBEC: If the committee fails to establish its own rules of procedure, it must apply those established by regulation [An Act respecting Occupational Health and Safety, Sec. 74]. Division V of the Regulation respecting health and safety committees spells out the rules of operation for committees without their own rules of procedure.

SASKATCHEWAN: OHS laws don’t require JHSCs to have terms of reference or rules of procedure.

YUKON: OHS laws don’t require JHSCs to have terms of reference or rules of procedure.

INSIDER SOURCE

Yvonne O’Reilly, CRSP: O’Reilly Health and Safety Consulting; (416) 294-4141; www.ohsconsulting.ca; info@ohsconsulting.ca.