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The best way to involve workers in safety and health matters is to have a workplace safety and health committee or worker representative. This provides a formal system of involving workers in identifying hazards in the workplace, investigating incidents, resolving complaints and more. Health and safety committees and representatives play a vital role in preventing work-related injuries and diseases, and are an important part of what is called the internal responsibility system. This system, based on cooperation between employers and employees, improves the overall understanding of occupational health and safety issues in the workplace.
The Canada Labour Code also provides a specific dispute resolution mechanism called the internal complaint resolution process. Employers and employees must follow this process to resolve occupational health and safety problems and disputes. Both the internal responsibility system and the internal complaint resolution process require extensive participation by the health and safety committees and representatives.
Employees sitting on the workplace health and safety committee must receive training and compensation for participating in meetings and carrying out their duties.
Employers under federal jurisdiction with 300 or more employees across Canada are required to establish a policy health and safety committee. The policy committee addresses issues that, because of their nature, cannot be effectively dealt with by individual workplace health and safety committees or representatives. Policy committees strengthen the internal responsibility system by ensuring consistency across an employer’s work sites.
The policy committee has access to all government and employer reports, studies and tests relating to the health and safety of employees. It can request from the employer any information it considers necessary to identify existing or potential hazards with respect to materials, processes, equipment or activities in any of the employer’s workplaces.
The Canada Labour Code requires employers under federal jurisdiction to appoint a health and safety representative for each workplace with fewer than 20 employees.
The health and safety representative is responsible for addressing workplace health and safety issues. The employees of the workplace who do not exercise managerial functions select, from among those employees, the person to be appointed health and safety representative.
If the employees are represented by a trade union, then the union selects the person to be appointed after consulting any employees who are not in the union.
A health and safety representative may request from an employer any information that the representative considers necessary to identify existing or potential hazards in the workplace. The representative has full access to all government and employer reports, studies and tests relating to the health and safety of employees. Of course, the representative does not have access to the medical records of any individual except with the person’s
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