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.

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