Setting up a health and safety committee: a primer

Now that your start up is a reality, you may have given some thought to establishing a health and safety committee. Last week we had CFIB’s health and safety expert, Business Resource counselor Geneviève Coupal join us for a Q & A on considerations and obstacles when forming a health and safety committee in your small business. This week, we will go over some of the resources and steps you can follow to ensure you get your committee off to a great start!

Here are a few general considerations to help guide your thinking:

  • Get a baseline: in order to determine the functions and scope of your start up’s health and safety committee, you need to conduct an inclusive self-assessment of your business practices with a view to establishing formal policies and procedures.
  • One size does not fit all: the attributes of your business are not the same as your neighbour’s business. Similarly, rules and regulations on workplace health and safety differ from province to province – in Ontario, health and Safety committee members need certification; in Saskatchewan, co-chairs must be trained in their duties; in Nova Scotia, the employer takes responsibility for training the committee).
  • Read all about it: no one is an overnight expert on health and safety. Do some reading about the applicable legislation in your province so you have an overview of requirements that pertain to your type of business. For example, if you are in the business of web publishing, an eye wash station in your office environment is not relevant.
  • Take ownership: one of the fundamental principles of health and safety in the workplace is ensuring you have a dedicated role for it. This means at least one person with responsibility for this part of your business will be trained accordingly.
  • Beyond hard hats and steel-toed boots: workplace health and safety is much more than just manual labour and preventing herniated discs due to heavy lifting. The concept goes from head to toe and includes mental health, harassment, and ergonomics, amongst many other areas.

Some preliminary aspects of health and safety that you’ll want to ask yourself as you prepare to establish a formal health and safety committee:

  • Have I read the applicable provincial legislation?
  • Do I have a current copy of the relevant occupational health and safety legislation?
  • Have I drafted a health and safety policy statement?
  • Have I given one of my employees the formal responsibility of leading the H &S committee?
  • Do I have a fully stocked first aid kit in my workplace?
  • Have I taken stock of possible hazards and risks in my workplace?
  • Are my current processes designed to eliminate o minimize work-related health and safety hazards?
  • Is health and safety training in place?

The basics of your health and safety committee will definitely include the following features:

  • Copy of applicable legislation (e.g., the Occupational Health & Safety Act/Workplace Health & Safety Act)
  • Materials that explain the legislation in plain language (many provinces will provide this through their Ministries of Labour)
  • “In Case of Injury” poster (these are often produced by provincial workplace safety and insurance boards/agencies)
  • Valid first aid certificates
  • Names and contact info for committee members who are certified first aiders
  • Names and contact info for Health & Safety committee members
  • Emergency phone numbers
    • Fire, police, ambulance, poison control
    • After-hours company contact information
    • City works/Public Utilities (e.g., hydro, gas)
    • Ministry of Energy/Environment (for hazardous spills)
    • Ministry of Labour (due to workplace injury or refusal to work)

A health and safety committee is essential.  It may seem daunting to implement at the outset, yet there are reliable resources to help you get started:

http://www.wsps.ca/Home

http://www.wsps.ca/Home http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/information/govt.html#_1_1

And read this interview of HR Expert Geneviève CoupalAsk the Expert: Forming a Health and Safety Committee at Your StartUp.

If your business needs to get started on health and safety training, register for CFIB’s FREE online course:   Small Business Health and Safety Certificate.

If you have questions about how health and safety regulations apply to your business, and you’re a CFIB member (including My StartUp members) contact CFIB’s Business Resources, who can provide you with advice, direction, and expertise on all aspects of workplace health and safety: 1-888-234-2232 or cfib@cfib.ca.


Ask the Expert: Forming a Health and Safety Committee at Your Start Up

In honour of North American Occupation Health & Safety Week, May 3 -9, we are continuing the theme of health & safety in your start up business all month!  

Today we have CFIB’s health and safety expert, Business Resource counselor Geneviève Coupal joining us today for an interview about getting a Health & Safety Committee formed in your start up. You can learn more about Geneviève at the end of her interview.

Q and A: Starting Up a Health and Safety Committee at Your Start Up

Q1: What do you think is the most challenging aspect for a business setting up a health and safety committee?

A1: It all starts with buy-in and establishing the right conditions for success. The launch of a new health and safety committee depends highly on getting a clear mandate from both the employer and the employees.

Q2: What is a typical problem experienced by a business when it starts a health and safety committee?

A2: Seeing as how the committee will include the employer’s and the employees’ representatives, it is important to be able to hear and develop a common perspective, despite the reality of different, often competing, interests.

Q3: For a business just starting to think about setting up a health and safety committee, where should they be focusing attention?

A3: To ensure the smooth functioning of the health and safety committee, it is essential that members commit to the effort in good faith. A key to its success will involve a willingness to solve problems. The business also needs to be aware that they will have to compromise.

Q4: What is the single-most important thing for a business to understand about health and safety in the workplace?

A4: It must be clearly communicated that the health and safety committee is operating in the best interests of both the employees and the employer. It is just that simple: everybody wins.

Q5: What types of things does a health and safety committee do?

A5: Generally speaking, the committee will identify workplace risks and hazards and then find ways to avoid or reduce them. The committee will also take suggestions and complaints on health and safety. They take action that sensitizes employees on the importance of health and safety (including information sessions, webinars, and training). The role also involves analyzing accidents, finding preventative solutions, and choosing proper protective equipment.

Now that Geneviève  has given us some great considerations for forming a health and safety committee at your small business, please join us on Wednesday of next week, when we will discuss steps and resources for setting up a committee in your workplace.

~~~

Small Business Support StaffGeneviève Coupal has been a Business Counsellor with CFIB for over 17 years, specializing in occupational health and safety (OHS). She responds to more than 2,000 questions each year from CFIB members, in both French and English, with approximately 15% of the calls about OHS. Over the course of her career, she has helped more than 5,000 small business owners with their OHS concerns.

 Geneviève holds a B.A. in Business Administration and is currently taking graduate courses in health and safety at the University of Sherbrooke in Québec. Geneviève is also a Certified Human Resources Professional.


Was this Workplace Accident Avoidable?

I met a few of my friends the other night at a restaurant for dinner. The food, atmosphere, wait staff and company were incredible. It was a great evening.

Except for one notable incident.

It occurred mid-meal when a friend and I went outside to meet a latecomer to our mini-soiree. As we waved our friend over, a chef from the restaurant was on the way out the door with the help of the manager and another staffer. A waiter from the restaurant pulled up in a vehicle that I learned (through shameless eavesdropping) belonged to the manager.  The chef was in obvious pain. When my friend learned it was his knee that was the problem, she quickly (and impressively) took charge of the situation, demanding that the chef lay down across the back seat, putting a jacket under his leg for cushioning and reminding the driver to proceed calmly and safely. She gave some other great advice, all derived from her own experience hurting her knee on the job.

As the chef and waiter driver left for the hospital, the manager thanked my friend and went inside.

Throughout the meal, my thoughts drifted towards the poor chef who would undoubtedly be off work for a while. What of the manager and staff? They were probably going insane trying to cover for the chef. Not to mention the waiter who had to leave work unexpectedly. Most importantly, I wondered if the accident could’ve been prevented and whether an ambulance should’ve been called for safety and legal reasons.

Back at work on Monday, I visited the Ontario Ministry of Labour’s Safe At Work website. I found a wealth of information, including a tools section (think of it as a “Where’s Waldo” version of workplace hazards). The interactive tools look a little cheesy but they are quite helpful for small business owners and their employees. The tools point out both laws and best practices, so the site’s worth a visit, even if your small business isn’t located in Ontario.

Click on the image below to take the mini quiz on the Ministry of Labour’s website. I’ll be honest – it took some effort for me to find that twelfth hazard! You can check out the tools for other industries and find more health & safety information while you’re visiting. Health and Safety in Your Restaurant

Additional Resources:

In addition to this Government resource, you can refresh your knowledge on workplace health and safety through VuBiz, the CFIB / My StartUp program that provides learning modules on a host of business topics*.  VuBiz offers a free online training course on workplace safety. A certificate-based health and safety course is also available.

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

 *Must be a CFIB member or My MyStartUp member through CFIB to participate in VuBiz free and discounted training sessions.

 


Keep calm and carry on: workplace stress

It just so happens that it is not only North American Occupational Health and Safety Week but also Mental Health Week 2015. As such, there is never a better time to bring up the topic of stress in the workplace.

Business owner or employee, you’ve probably been touched in one way or another by workplace stress. In fact, stress is the leading cause of workplace disability in Canada, costing the overall economy over $4.5 billion in lost productivity due to workplace absences.

As an employer, you have certain responsibilities to your workers as it relates to stress and mental health. Failing to reasonably accommodate an employee who is struggling with stress can lead to productivity, legal and other problems.

Remember: stress is considered an illness and should be approached just as you would any other disability.

Generally, there is an expectation that an employer will be proactive and vigilant about identifying stress. If you have an employee displaying signs of stress, investigate the situation.

What does workplace stress look like?

Stress can present in many different ways. Some typical signs include:Workplace Stress Mental Health

  • Changes in eating habits (weight gain or loss)
  • Sleep disruption
  • Increased use of alcohol, drugs or tobacco
  • Unusual impatience or irritation
  • Poor performance, including distraction and preoccupation
  • Withdrawal from social contact
  • Reports of headaches, indigestion, fatigue, insomnia or frequent non-specific issues
  • Frequent absences
  • Increased conflict between employees
  • Frequent talk about “stress” and “pressure”

As a business owner, how can you accommodate stress?

  • Reassignment/modified duties
  • Re-bundling of tasks to provide meaningful work
  • Special equipment or revised expectations
  • Changes to workplace process or procedure
  • Flexible hours
  • Sick leave
  • EAP (Employment Assistance Program)

Stress test

To get a sense of how healthy your workplace is, take a moment and run through this assessment tool provided by Healthy Families BC. It only takes five minutes and offers you a score based on your responses. It’s a useful reference point to gauge how your business manages workplace mental health.

CFIB My StartUp has a wealth of information on workplace stress, including tips for helping your employees deal with stress, along with insight into how your business can promote a healthy workplace.

 Additional resources on mental health in the workplace

http://www.ccohs.ca/healthyminds/

http://www.guardingmindsatwork.ca/