Canada's Health & Safety Innovation
September 2022 Edition
March 2021 Edition
Responsibilities of workplace health and safety
By Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS)
Maintaining and promoting health and safety in the workplace is important throughout the employee journey. Whether they’re a new worker or a seasoned professional, training (and retraining) is a key factor that can help staff stay safe while on the job.
In addition to providing training, employers must abide by several occupational health and safety responsibilities. Many of these elements including, employee rights and employer responsibilities, are similar across jurisdictions in Canada. However, the specifics around occupational health and safety legislation and how these laws are enforced can vary from one jurisdiction to another.
Workers must perform in compliance with occupational health and safety legislation and use personal protective equipment (PPE) and clothing as directed by the employer. Employees also have a duty to work in a safe manner, use the prescribed safety equipment, and report workplace hazards and dangers to their supervisor or employer.
To carry out their responsibilities, workers need to know what they are, and that’s where managers, supervisors and employers come in.
Managers and supervisors are required by law to take every reasonable precaution to protect their workers, and they must ensure that workers are performing their jobs safely and are following occupational health and safety legislation. This means that workers need to be trained on potential and actual hazards associated with their job, provided with written instructions on the measures and procedures taken to protect them, and use all appropriate PPE and devices.
Here are some ways you can implement health and safety measures at work.
Develop and communicate a policy
Health and safety programs are a requirement in any workplace, and having a written policy is key to its success. Think of a policy as a plan of action. It indicates the degree of the employer’s commitment to health and safety and should reflect the special needs of your workplace. The policy should also be explained and understood by any and every worker and provided in written form in the language of staff. It should be positive in tone (for example, focus on what the worker should do rather than what they should not), and periodically reviewed to evaluate its effectiveness.
The policy should be signed by leadership and include items and statements such as the employer’s duty to give health and safety education and training to all employees, the development and maintenance of health and safety rules and procedures, and planned programs that support the commitment to workers’ health. It should make clear that cooperation on the part of all employees is vital to the success of the health and safety policy and should be actively incorporated into the workplace and regular workplace duties and actions.
It’s important to make sure all employees understand the policy. Workplaces can achieve this by holding regular safety talks, posting signs at the workplace, writing articles about the policy in company newsletters, and posting on the internal web site.
Create a committee
Most workplaces are legally required to have a health and safety committee or representative. Among other things, their role is to recognize and evaluate workplace hazards and participate in the development and implementation of programs to protect the employees’ safety and health. They respond to employee concerns and suggestions about safety and can create and promote programs to improve employee training and education.
Implement control measures
To help identify hazards in your workplace, perform risk assessments of specific job tasks. During this process it is important to consult with the health and safety committee or representative, workers that perform the tasks being evaluated, and supervisors. Once the hazards and risks have been identified, determine the appropriate control measures to protect workers. When selecting control measures, consider the hierarchy of controls, which includes elimination or substitution controls, engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment. Risk assessments will also help identify the specific training needs of your workers.
Provide ongoing training
The process of training workers can help keep everyone safe. While training is incredibly important for new staff, keep in mind that workers who are returning after an absence or are taking on new roles and responsibilities need to go through this process.
Training should cover topics like worker rights and responsibilities, your organization’s specific safety rules and policies, and who to ask for help. Tour each work area in the facility to review potential hazards, safe work practices, and emergency and evacuation procedures. Provide staff with a contact list of the health and safety committee members or representatives. They should also know how to participate in the health and safety process, like how to report hazards. Depending on the nature of work and the potential hazards specific training may be required.
Include mental health
Although workplaces have traditionally looked at workplace health from a strictly occupational health and safety perspective, mental health should be integrated in your occupational health and safety policy. Research has shown that employees who feel they have psychological support have greater job attachment, satisfaction, involvement, and performance, and more positive work moods. To help keep your employees psychologically safe, make mental health a priority. Promote work-life balance and encourage staff to take their breaks. Show compassion and understand that priorities come up outside of work. Check in with employees. Even a simple “How are you?” can go a long way.
Worker safety is a two-way street
Worker safety isn’t just one tip, tool, or training process. It’s a journey. And just like any journey, there are many different routes you can take. But no matter which way you go, don’t go it alone. By involving your staff and clearly communicating the path forward, you’ll get there together, safe and sound.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) promotes the total well-being — physical, psychosocial, and mental health — of workers in Canada by providing information, advice, education, and management systems and solutions that support the prevention of injury and illness.
Visit www.ccohs.ca for more.
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