Program guideline for health and safety representative basic training
Learn what to include in a training program for health and safety representatives.
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The members of the Health and Safety Representative Training Working Group contributed their time and expertise to develop this guideline. The committee included members from the following organizations:
- Public Services Health and Safety Association (PSHSA)
- Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS)
- Workers Health and Safety Centre (WHSC)
- Workplace Safety North (WSN)
- Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA)
- Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW)
- Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)
One of the primary purposes of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) is to facilitate a strong internal responsibility system (IRS) in the workplace. To this end, the OHSA lays out the duties of employers, supervisors, workers, constructors and workplace owners. Workplace parties’ compliance with their respective statutory duties is essential to the establishment of a strong IRS in the workplace.
Simply put, the IRS means that everyone in the workplace has a role to play in keeping workplaces safe and healthy. Workers who see a health and safety problem such as a hazard or contravention of the OHSA in the workplace have a statutory duty to report the situation to their employer or a supervisor. Employers and supervisors are, in turn, required to address those situations and acquaint workers with any hazard in the work that they do.
In workplaces, including construction projects, at which the number of workers regularly exceeds five and at which no joint health and safety committee is required employers must ensure that workers select a Health and Safety Representative (HSR). The health and safety representative (HSR) is selected by workers at the workplace who do not exercise managerial functions or by the union where the workplace is unionized. Like joint health and safety committee members, the HSR should be committed to improving health and safety conditions in the workplace.
At the present time, the OHSA does not require employers to ensure the HSR receives any specified training. However, the intended outcome of this guideline is that upon successful completion of a training program the HSR would have the foundational knowledge and skills needed to fulfill their legislated duties as an HSR per section 8 of the OHSA and be able to support the workplace parties in understanding their roles as part of the IRS in preventing workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities. HSR training differs from the occupational health and safety awareness training that employers are required to ensure that all workers have completed under the OHSA (O. Reg. 297/13). It also differs from the general duty that the employer has under clause 25 (2) (d) of the OHSA to acquaint a worker or a person in authority over a worker with any hazard in the work and in the handling, storage, use, disposal and transport of any article, device, equipment or a biological, chemical or physical agent. Ideally, a OHSA should receive Occupational Health and Safety Awareness Training prior to the OHSA training.
Key information about HSR requirements can be found in the OHSA and in the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development’s Guide to Joint Health and Safety Committees and Health and Safety Representatives in the Workplace.
A printed copy of the guide can be ordered:
- By visiting ServiceOntario Publications or
- By phone through the ServiceOntario Contact Centre, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at:
This resource does not replace the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations and should not be used as or considered legal advice. Health and safety inspectors apply and enforce these laws based on the facts they find in the workplace.
The purpose of this document is to provide guidance for the development and delivery of basic generic HSR training programs to enable representatives to perform their legislated duties and responsibilities.
Under the OHSA, HSRs have similar responsibilities and powers as a joint health and safety committee member. These include:
- Identifying actual and potential workplace hazards;
- Inspecting the workplace at least once a month or, if that is not practical, inspecting the workplace at least once a year and at least part of the workplace each month in accordance with a schedule agreed upon by the HSR and the employer (or constructor);
- Being consulted about and being present at the beginning of health and safety related testing in the workplace;
- Making recommendations to the employer about health and safety in the workplace;
- Participating in investigation of work refusals, if available;
- Inspecting the site of a critical injury or fatality at a workplace; and
- Obtaining health and safety related information from the employer.
An HSR plays an important role in supporting the IRS at a workplace. To be effective in their duties, HSRs should have a broad foundation of knowledge. As such, the learning outcomes in this guideline provide a framework that can be applied to the HSR’s specific workplace.
An understanding of the recognition, assessment, control and evaluation of hazards provides a HSR with skills to apply their knowledge to contribute to the IRS for a healthy and safe workplace.
It is recommended that HSR training be repeated every five (5) years, or more often as necessary, in order for an HSR to their maintain knowledge and skills and understand any changes to the OHSA and its regulations. Training programs should be up-to-date to reflect any legislative and regulatory changes.
The HSR basic training program guideline applies to all workplaces that require an HSR, regardless of sector. This document is intended to provide guidance to all workplaces that require an HSR, regardless of sector. Topics should include:
- Occupational health and safety law;
- Rights, duties and responsibilities of the workplace parties;
- Duties and responsibilities of the HSR under the OHSA;
- Common workplace hazards;
- Hazard recognition, assessment, control, and evaluation (RACE methodology) of hazard controls;
- Applying the RACE methodology (recognize, assess, control and evaluate) to a workplace hazard; and
- Health and safety resources available to the workplace parties.
- In addition to a basic HSR training program, HSRs should take sector specific health and safety training to address hazards that are specific to their workplaces.
5. Learning outcomes
HSR training should cover the learning outcomes listed below. The training should be outcomes-based, which means that specific knowledge and skills should be attained in order to successfully complete the program.
Upon completion, learners should be able to:
1. Describe the importance of occupational health and safety and outline the roles of the workplace parties:
- Explain why occupational health and safety is important; and
- Explain the roles of the different workplace parties in achieving effective health and safety programs, practices, and performance. Describe how this relates to the IRS.
2. Identify occupational health and safety legislation and training requirements:
- Identify and complete the OHSA awareness training requirement ;
- Demonstrate knowledge on how to access information from the OHSA; and
- Describe the rights, duties and responsibilities of the workplace parties.
3. Describe the purpose, legal requirements for and powers of a HSR under the OHSA:
- Describe the purpose of the HSR;
- Explain the legal requirements for the HSR;
- Identify the HSR’s responsibilities under the OHSA, including:
- Identifying hazards;
- Inspecting workplaces;
- Participating in investigations of work refusals; and
- Consulting and making recommendations on workplace health and safety.
- Describe the circumstances in which an HSR interacts with Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development inspectors; and
- Explain the employer’s general duty to assist and cooperate with the representative as well as the employer’s specific responsibilities to the HSR.
4. Describe the categories of occupational health and safety hazards and the basic process of recognizing, assessing and controlling hazards, and evaluating hazard controls:
- Explain the following terms:
- Occupational injury;
- Critical injury;
- Occupational illness; and
- Identify and provide examples of the five factors that can contribute to a health and safety hazard (people, equipment, materials, environment and process); and
- Explain the RACE methodology (recognize, assess and control hazards, and evaluate the hazard controls).
5. Explain hazard recognition and the process for workplace inspections, including the legal requirements:
- Explain the process of hazard recognition;
- Identify the legal requirements for workplace inspections by the HSR under the OHSA and state the purpose of the inspection; and
- Describe how to conduct a workplace inspection and how to identify hazards during the inspection, including how to:
- Prepare for a workplace inspection (information and tools needed);
- Document worker concerns;
- Observe the workplace and work processes;
- Review documents such as workplace records and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board or Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development reports; and
- Prepare an inspection report and determine procedures for follow up as necessary.
6. Explain hazard assessment and its benefits:
- Explain how a hazard assessment helps to determine the severity of a workplace hazard;
- Describe how to assess health and safety hazards using methods such as:
- Observations; and
- Explain the purpose of exposure monitoring.
7. Explain the purpose of hazard controls:
- Explain the purpose of hazard control and that hazard control reduces or eliminates hazards; and
- Explain the hierarchy of controls (elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, personal protective equipment) and how it may be applied to health and safety hazards.
8. Explain the purpose of the evaluation of hazard controls.
- Explain the purpose of evaluating hazard controls
This section provides guidance on how a HSR training program should be designed to ensure that the learners meet the learning outcomes set out in this guideline.
- The training program should: Use adult learning principles to:
- Ensure learners know why they need to learn specific content, its relevance to them and their workplace;
- Relate learning to learners’ own experience in situations that simulate actual applications in the workplace;
- Challenge learners using a variety of activities that allow opportunity for participation, feedback and interaction;
- Recognize limits of attention span and various ways that adults learn; and
- Use realistic activities and tools to support transfer of learning to the workplace.
- Literacy level is appropriate for the learners;
- Content is accurate, current and all legal and technical information is referenced and verified;
- Use of a variety of teaching aids such as audio-visuals, equipment, safety devices and measuring/monitoring equipment;
- Learner materials follow principles of instructional writing and good graphic design; and
- Programs include a high degree of interaction between the learners and instructors and include active participation in the training through activities such as case studies, role play, group work, assignments, discussion groups and presentations.
7. Delivery of training
This section provides guidance on the duration of training and how to deliver the training program. Regardless of the delivery mode (face-to-face, distance learning, eLearning and blended learning), all training should support the learners’ ability to achieve the learning outcomes.
The recommended duration of the HSR training program is a minimum of one day (6.5 hours) for all delivery modes, ensuring that all the learning outcomes are covered.
7.2 Face-to-face training
The class size should not exceed 24 learners to ensure participation and interaction.
As indicated above, the recommended duration of face to face training is 6.5 hours.
7.3 Distance learning
Learners have varying needs such as scheduling and location. As a result, a variety of delivery methods should be considered. Distance learning is an educational situation in which the instructor and learners are separated by location. The instructor is leading the training in real-time and moving through the learning outcomes together with the learner, although not in the same physical location. Examples include webinar or video conferencing.
Distance learning should have the same minimum hours of training as face-to-face learning and should include plans for interaction with a qualified instructor.
7.4 eLearning and blended learning
eLearning in this context is a wide set of applications and processes such as web-based learning and computer-based learning. eLearning is delivered electronically in which a learner sets their own pace and is not being led in real time by a qualified instructor.
eLearning combined with face-to-face learning is referred to as blended learning. Blended Learning describes the practice of using several training delivery methods in one curriculum. It typically refers to the combination of classroom instruction and any type of training that includes self-directed use of online capabilities, such as eLearning.
When a blended learning course is being designed, the two sections of the course should be well integrated. All blended learning should have the same minimum hours of training as face-to-face learning.
For blended learning, evaluation in the face-to-face part of the course should support and validate that the learning outcomes covered by the eLearning portion of the course have been adequately met by the learner.
All eLearning components should meet the criteria in the eLearning Instructional Design Guidelines, posted on the MLTSD website.
8. Learner evaluation
The training program should include a plan for the evaluation of learning that includes ongoing and final evaluation. Evaluation should demonstrate that the learner has met the learning outcomes for this guideline.
The training provider, instructor and evaluator, as appropriate to the circumstance, should ensure that learners have the opportunity to receive feedback on their evaluation results. Training providers should provide opportunities such as coaching or support to assist any unsuccessful participant to meet the training program outcomes.
There should be a variety of evaluation methods available to the instructor and/or evaluator which are appropriate to the learning outcomes. The evaluation plan should support ongoing evaluation.
9. Course materials
This section provides guidance on the materials used by both the instructor and the learner for the training.
Training providers should ensure that all materials used for the training program are:
- Legible and of good reproducible quality;
- Available in sufficient quantity (including all learning materials, equipment and learning aids);
- Free of bias, including but not limited to gender;
- Free of preference, including but not limited to products and equipment;
- Compliant with copyright laws;
- Appropriate for targeted learner language and literacy level; and
- Compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 and its regulations, as required.
9.1 Learner Materials
Learner materials should clearly describe learning objectives, agenda, training content and evaluation/testing. The date and version of the materials should be indicated.
Suggested materials include:
- An agenda for each session;
- Participant manual;
- Background and reference information;
- Terms and definitions;
- Worksheets for learning activities, exercises, role plays and case studies;
- Job aids, tools and templates;
- References to legislation, standards and codes applicable to the training topic;
- The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA);
- Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development Guide to the OHSA;
- Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development Guide to Joint Health and Safety Committees and Representatives in the Workplace;
- Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) Regulation (O. Reg. 860) under the OHSA; and
- Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development Guide to WHMIS.
9.2 Instructor materials
Instructor materials should clearly describe learning outcomes and training content. They should clearly describe:
- Instructional methods;
- Learning activities; and
- Lesson plan timing.
Suggested instructor materials include:
- Lesson plans with detailed step-by-step instructions to guide the instructor through the lessons, including what materials will be used to deliver the topic, the instructional methods, the learning activities, timing and equipment needed, if any;
- Presentation materials with speaker notes, such as PowerPoint slides, etc.;
- Answer sheets for the learning activities, exercises, role plays, case studies and tests; and
- Audio-visual resources.
10. Appendix A: Glossary of terms – general
- Blended learning
- Describes the practice of using several training delivery methods in one curriculum. It typically refers to the combination of classroom instruction and any type of training that includes self-directed use of online capabilities (American Society of Training and Development [ASTD] definition).
- Distance learning
- An educational situation in which the instructor and learners are separated by location. Education or training courses are delivered to remote locations via synchronous or real-time instruction.
- eLearning (electronic learning)
- A term covering a wide set of applications and processes such as web-based learning, and computer-based learning.
- A person who evaluates learners.
- Face-to-face training
- Usually refers to traditional classroom training, in which an instructor teaches a course to a room of learners. The term is used synonymously with on-site training, classroom training and instructor-led training (slightly modified from ASTD definition).
- A person who delivers training programs.
- Training provider
- An individual, sole proprietor, corporation or not-for-profit organization delivering training.