Working together for safety

Understanding the Occupational Health and Safety Act is all about knowing the health and safety duties of employers, supervisors and the duties and rights of workers, and putting them into action. We all have to get involved.

If an employer knows about a hazard and doesn’t try to eliminate or reduce it, or make sure the workers are told about it and how to deal with it, that employer is not doing what the law requires.

If a supervisor knows about a hazard and doesn’t explain to the workers how to deal with it, that supervisor is not doing what the law requires.

If a worker knows about a hazard and doesn’t report it to the supervisor or the employer, that worker is not doing what the law requires.

If you see a hazard on the job, you have a duty to speak up. This includes reporting equipment that isn’t working right, and any other hazards that may be present as a result of not following the OHSA or Regulations. It’s important that you report to your supervisor or employer any injury, incident or close call, so that they can prevent those kinds of things from happening again in the future.

The right to participate in health and safety

The OHSA gives you the right to participate and get involved in keeping your workplace safe and healthy. There are many ways you can do this. Can you think of three?

Here are four good ways to get involved in keeping your workplace safe, but there are many more:

  • You can ask questions when you’re not sure about something.
  • You can volunteer to become a worker health and safety representative or a worker member of the joint health and safety committee.
  • You can help your health and safety representative or joint health and safety committee with health and safety inspections by pointing out possible hazards in your work area.
  • You can take your health and safety training seriously and put what you learn into practice in your job.

Health and safety representatives and joint health and safety committees

The OHSA says that workplaces with 6 to 19 workers need to have a health and safety representative or a joint health and safety committee. In most larger workplaces with 20 or more workers, the OHSA says a joint health and safety committee has to be set up. Committees have to have at least two people on them; the workers or their union, if any, pick one of them and the employer picks the other. In workplaces where there are 50 or more workers, the committee must have at least four members, and at least half of the members have to represent workers.

The committee plays an important role in helping to keep workplaces safe. For example, a member of the committee who represents workers must regularly inspect the workplace. Information from these inspections is brought back to the committee. The committee then makes recommendations to the employer to improve health and safety. The employer has to respond to these recommendations within a short period of time. Because there is an employer and a worker member of the committee, everyone has a say in identifying and solving problems.

In smaller workplaces, the health and safety representative has many of the same roles as a committee. They help to improve health and safety at work. They do this by inspecting the workplace often. If they find a problem, they make recommendations to the employer about how to fix it.

What to look for and what to ask

The OHSA says that your employer must post the OHSA and other health and safety information in your workplace, such as an occupational health and safety poster. Look for the posted names of your health and safety representative or joint health and safety committee members – these are people you can talk to if you need help. And if your workplace has more than 5 workers, your employer has to post the company health and safety policy.

If you can’t find any of this information in your workplace, talk to your supervisor about it. Health and safety is an important part of his or her job. You can also talk to the people you work with and benefit from each other’s experience.

Always be on the lookout for hazards to yourself or others. Before you start your work day, ask yourself questions like:

  • Is any of the machinery broken?
  • Are there warning labels or signs?
  • Is there any moving equipment I could get caught in?
  • Is there something I could slip or trip on?
  • Do I need protective equipment?
  • Do I know how to do this job safely?

Can you think of any other questions to ask yourself? For example,

  • "Is there another worker nearby who could get hurt by what I’m doing?"
  • "Is this task more than I can physically handle?"

Try to list a few more.

These are good questions for everyone in the workplace to ask. Prevention starts here by paying attention to details and by following the OHSA and the workplace health and safety procedures.

Be a safety role model

Most workers should be able to look to their supervisors as good health and safety role models. But others may also be looking to you as a role model for good health and safety practices. How you work, and the way you think and talk about the work, can affect the safety of the people you work with. The message you want others to get from you is: “Prevention starts here”.

Step 3 quiz

Here is a quick quiz on this part of the program.

Yes or no?

  1. It is important that you know the safe way to do your job. You should share what you know. If you see a hazard, you must report it to your supervisor or employer.
  2. You should get involved in health and safety by asking questions, and you should put what you learn from training into practice on the job.
  3. If you can’t find any health and safety information posted in your workplace, you should just go back to work and not worry about it.
  4. Your health and safety representative or joint health and safety committee can help you with any concerns that you might have about working safely.
  5. It’s OK to take shortcuts to get the work done faster and on time.

Answers to Step 3 quiz

  1. Yes
  2. Yes
  3. No - you should ask your supervisor where the information is posted.
  4. Yes
  5. No – all workers should set a good example and follow the law and workplace procedures.