The Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (“OHSR”) under the Workers Compensation Act, (the “Act”) has been amended to add new provisions requiring an annual written evaluation by the employer of joint health and safety committees, minimum training requirements for new joint committee members and worker health and safety representatives and participation in investigations by a worker representative and the employer.
The following is a summary of the amendments, which came into effect on April 3, 2017. Employers should make note of the additional duties and requirements arising from the new provisions.
Joint health and safety committee evaluation
Pursuant to section 125 of the Act, employers are required to establish and maintain a joint health and safety committee in each workplace where 20 or more workers are regularly employed, or where it is required by order. The joint committee is made up of worker and employer representatives and its purpose is to identify and resolve health and safety problems in the workplace.
Under the new section 3.26 of the OHSR, the employer must ensure an evaluation of each of its joint committees is conducted annually, to examine its effectiveness and identify areas in need of improvement. The evaluation must be conducted by either the co-chairs of the joint committee or their designates, or the employer or a person retained by the employer. If the evaluation is done by the employer or someone retained by the employer, the input of the co-chairs or their designates must be obtained and considered.
The minimum topics the evaluation must include are set out in section 3.26(3). The evaluation must include confirmation that certain requirements were met regarding joint committees under the Act and the OHSR, an assessment of the effectiveness of the joint committee’s rules and procedures and an assessment of the overall effectiveness of the joint committee.
Section 3.26 further requires the joint committee to discuss the finished evaluation at its next meeting. The discussion and evaluation must be incorporated into the joint committee’s meeting minutes, which are required to be posted in the workplace.
Minimum training requirements
The OHSR amendments now require an employer to ensure new joint committee members and new worker health and safety representatives receive certain instruction and training. New section 3.27 sets out the minimum requirements for this instruction and training.
New joint committee members (those selected on or after the effective date of the amendments), must receive at least 8 hours of instruction and training as soon as practicable but no more than six months after being selected. Section 3.27(4) specifies six topics the instruction and training must cover. Pursuant to section 3.27(3), new worker health and safety representatives must receive at least four hours of instruction and training as soon as practicable but again no more than six months after being selected. Section 3.27(4) specifies four topics the instruction and training must cover.
For both joint committee members and worker representatives, the topics to be covered in the training include the duties and functions of a joint committee, the requirements regarding investigations and inspections under the Act and the OHSR and the requirements respecting refusal of unsafe work. The instruction and training provided to new joint committee members and worker representatives may go beyond the topics listed in the new provisions.
In certain cases, a new joint committee member or worker representative will not be required to complete the minimum training. A new member may skip the training if they used to be a worker representative or on a joint committee in the past, they have already received the training and it has been two years or less since they left the position.
Employers should note that the time to do the training is considered “work” for the purposes of the BC Employment Standards Act and the employer must pay employees for the training. Employers should also note that all joint committee members and worker health and safety representatives are entitled to eight hours of educational leave each year under section 135 of the Act, in addition to the new training requirements.
Meaning of “Participation”
Under the Act, employers are required to report and/or investigate in the case of certain accidents or other incidents. Section 174(1) states that such required investigations “must be carried out by persons knowledgeable about the type of work involved and, if they are reasonably available, with the participation of the employer or a representative of the employer and a worker representative”. “Worker representative” is defined in the Act as a worker on a joint health and safety committee or a worker health and safety representative for the workplace.
The amendments provide for a new subsection 174(1.1), which states that the participation of the employer or a representative of the employer and a worker representative includes, but is not limited to, viewing the scene of the incident with the persons carrying out the investigation, providing advice respecting the methods, scope or any other aspect of the investigation, and other activities as prescribed by the Board. In addition, new section 3.28 states that participation also includes assisting the persons carrying out the investigation with gathering information relating to the investigation, analyzing the information gathered and identifying any corrective actions necessary to prevent recurrence of similar incidents.
The meaning of the term “participation” is not limited to the activities listed and WorkSafeBC is developing a guideline to more fully explain what the term means.