Step 4: You are not alone
Getting the help you need
Many supervisors are promoted to that position because they were good at their previous job. They learned as much as they could about that job, the hazards involved and how to work safely. They knew how to do their work in a safe and healthy way. But they may not be too sure about what’s involved in supervising work. Now they are a supervisor and their duties have changed. But do they know everything they need to know about this new role?
That’s the question you should ask yourself. You may know a bit about the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the various regulations that are attached to it, but do you know enough about the specific requirements in the OHSA and about which of its regulations apply to your workplace? You may have the necessary experience in the work you are being called upon to supervise, but do you know enough about what’s actually involved in supervising workers?
Think back to what you learned in Step 1. You were told that the OHSA requires the employer to make sure that the supervisor is a "competent person." It's the employer's job to see to it that you have what you need to do your job competently. The OHSA emphasizes three things in particular that you need in order to be competent at your job. What are those three things?
The OHSA says you need specific knowledge, training and experience, such as:
- knowledge about the work, how it's done and the hazards involved
- the necessary training to do the job correctly and be skilled at it. This includes being familiar with the OHS Act and the regulations that apply to the work you're supervising
- the experience that will enable you to plan and monitor the work
We have reviewed various duties the OHSA assigns to you as a supervisor. If you feel that you don't have the necessary knowledge, training and experience to carry out those duties, it's important that you talk to the employer. Tell him or her you are happy to be a supervisor, but that you need more information and training in certain areas to do your job. Perhaps you need to attend a training course on the OHSA and regulations. Maybe you need to learn more about how to recognize, assess and control hazards and to evaluate the hazard controls. Maybe you want to know more about leadership skills and communication, about how to develop your listening skills and about what the workers expect from their supervisor. Don't hesitate to ask the employer for help if you feel that you don't know enough about something.
Even when you have the necessary knowledge, training and experience to be a competent supervisor, fixing a health and safety problem will sometimes be out of your control. Maybe it’s a hazard that affects the whole staff. Or it might cost a lot of money to fix it and you may not be able to approve that expense. If that happens, you need to let your employer know that you need help with solving the problem. Bring the ideas you got from the workers and from the health and safety rep or committee. Together you can figure out the best way to eliminate or control the hazard. The workers need to know that you will do what’s right for them, and you need to know that the employer will do what’s right for everyone.
The OHSA supports a coordinated approach to workplace health and safety by giving everybody duties according to their position in the workplace. The higher your position is, the more duties you have. When you put all of these duties together, you get a strong IRS in the workplace.
Where else to go for help
Getting help inside your workplace
Sometimes a worker will come to you with a question and you just don’t know the answer. Often the answer is right there in your workplace. You can find answers in the workplace health and safety policies and procedures, the safety data sheets that come with hazardous materials, the operating manuals for equipment or the recommendations of the JHSC or health and safety representative.
Can you think of other good sources right in your workplace for specific health and safety information?
You can find more health and safety information in your workplace at the following sources:
- The employer’s health and safety program and procedures. The program is focused on the particular hazards in your workplace. The procedures to deal with those hazards may contain the answer you're looking for. You can ask your health and safety coordinator or employer for this information.
- If the problem is about hazardous materials such as chemicals, consult the workplace's safety data sheets or SDSs for information on how to deal safely with those materials. The employer is required to make that information available in the workplace.
- The operator's manual for the equipment that's operated by the workers contains useful health and safety information. If no manual is available for the workers, the supervisor can contact the manufacturer for information.
- The joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative. It's a good practice to take the time to read the committee minutes and recommendations and to talk to the health and safety rep or committee.
- Inspection and incident reports. The problem may have cropped up in the past, or there may be something in one of the reports that leads to an effective solution.
- Other supervisors, if there are any. They might have encountered the same problem and have some good ideas on how to deal with it.
- The OHSA and regulations provide lots of valuable information on health and safety. The employer is required to post a copy of the OHSA and regulations in the workplace.
Sometimes you might not understand what the OHSA and regulations are telling you to do, and even your employer might not fully understand. That's when you need outside help. For example, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development website offers many helpful resources, including a downloadable Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act that provides a plain language explanation of the various parts of the Act.
Ontario has a health and safety “system” that’s made up of many organizations. The information below explains more about who they are.
Ontario’s health and safety system partners
Develops, communicates and enforces occupational health and safety requirements and employment standards. Develops, coordinates and implements strategies to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses and can set standards for health and safety training.
Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes worldwide, and is happening right here in Ontario, including for labour exploitation. There have been labour trafficking cases involving construction, manufacturing, mining, hospitality, salons, agriculture, domestic work, sales and other industries.
People who are at heightened risk of labour trafficking include:
- migrant workers
- newcomers to Canada
- people with uncertain immigration status
- people who are homeless
- people who do not speak English or French
Labour traffickers often take away passports and other documents, and sometimes control where the person stays. Debt bondage is a form of labour trafficking where a person is told they must work to pay off a large, unexpected and illegal debt.
People in other countries and newcomers may be recruited by someone from their home country or from Canada who makes false promises about what a job is and how much it pays. The person may not know their rights in Ontario, may not know how to get help and may fear reporting to police.
There are different ways to get help if you or someone you know is being trafficked or is at risk:
- If there is immediate danger or if you suspect someone is being trafficked, call 911 or your local police service.
- For information and support, contact Canada’s confidential human trafficking hotline:
- You can learn about what human trafficking is, how it can happen, signs to look out for, and where to go for help by visiting Ontario’s Human Trafficking webpage.
An occupational health and safety training centre for workers, representatives, supervisors and employers.
Six medical clinics located across Ontario that provide occupational health services and information.
Health and safety associations
Four health and safety associations that provide sector specific consulting, training, products and services.
- Infrastructure Health and Safety Association – serves electrical, construction and transportation sectors.
- Public Services Health and Safety Association – serves health, education and municipal sectors.
- Workplace Safety North – serves mining, pulp and paper and forestry sectors.
- Workplace Safety and Prevention Services – serves industrial, farming and service sectors.
Administers Ontario’s no-fault workplace insurance for employers and their workers.
All of the above organizations are part of Ontario’s health and safety system.
Another place you can go for information is the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. They have information and fact sheets on their website. If you are having trouble finding information, you can ask questions by telephone at 1-800-668-4284, or through their website.
The help you can get from these external sources is not just for you – it’s for sharing with others in your workplace. That’s what the OHSA expects you to do. To be a good supervisor you have to do more than just know things, you have to put what you know into action. Prevention starts here, but it doesn't end here.
To help you understand how Ontario’s prevention system works together to help create safer workplaces, try to match the following list of organizations to their purpose.
- Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development
- Health and safety associations
- Workplace Safety and Insurance Board
- Workers Health & Safety Centre
- Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers
- Health and safety training
- Enforcement of the OHSA
- Medical clinics for injured or sick workers
- Insurance benefits for injured or sick workers
- Occupational health and safety consulting, training, products and services
Step 4 quiz
Before we move on to Step 5, here’s a short true-or-false quiz on the material we have just covered.
True or false?
- To be a competent supervisor, it's good enough to know that the Occupational Health and Safety Act exists and that various regulations are attached to the OHSA.
- If fixing a health and safety problem is out of your control for any reason, you need to bring the problem to the employer.
- The company health and safety program and procedures, material safety data sheets, inspection and incident reports are all good sources for answers to health and safety questions from workers and supervisors.
- The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development's only purpose is to inspect workplaces and enforce the OHSA and regulations.
Answers to Step 4 quiz
- False. You need to know and understand the specific laws in the OHSA relating to the various duties and roles of people in the workplace, and you need to know and understand the specific regulations that apply to your workplace.
- True. Bring along any ideas for solutions that you got from the workers and the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative.
- False. The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development also provides lots of information and guidance on health and safety on its website, and it develops plans and strategies to help make workplaces safer.