Health and Safety Committees and Representatives

Health and safety committees and representatives play a vital role in preventing work-related injuries and diseases, and are an important part of what is called the internal responsibility system. This system, based on cooperation between employers and employees, improves the overall understanding of occupational health and safety issues in the workplace.

The Canada Labour Code also provides a specific dispute resolution mechanism called the internal complaint resolution process. Employers and employees must follow this process to resolve occupational health and safety problems and disputes. Both the internal responsibility system and the internal complaint resolution process require extensive participation by the health and safety committees and representatives.

Depending on the size of the individual workplaces concerned, employers under federal jurisdiction must:

In addition, employers with more than 300 employees across Canada must have a Policy Committee that allows employees to more effectively participate in and contribute to the management of health and safety in the workplace.

Workplace Health and Safety Committee

Workplace health and safety committees must be established in workplaces under federal jurisdiction where there are 20 or more employees. These committees have many duties including the following:

  • to consider and expeditiously dispose of health and safety complaints;
  • to participate in all of the inquiries, investigations, studies and inspections pertaining to employee health and safety;
  • to participate in the implementation and monitoring of a program for the provision of personal protective equipment, clothing, devices, or materials, and, if there is no policy committee, participate in the development of the program;
  • to participate in the implementation of changes that may affect occupational health and safety, including work processes and procedures, and, if there is no policy committee, participate in the planning of the implementation of those changes; and
  • to inspect all or part of the workplace each month, so that every part of the workplace is inspected at least once a year.

Employees sitting on the workplace health and safety committee must receive training and compensation for participating in meetings and carrying out their duties.

For more information, see Pamphlet 6B - Workplace Health and Safety Committees.

Policy Health and Safety Committee

Employers under federal jurisdiction with 300 or more employees across Canada are required to establish a policy health and safety committee.

The policy committee addresses issues that, because of their nature, cannot be effectively dealt with by individual workplace health and safety committees or representatives. Policy committees strengthen the internal responsibility system by ensuring consistency across an employer's work sites.

The policy committee has many duties including:

  • to participate in the development of health and safety policies and programs;
  • to deal with matters raised by its members or referred to it by a workplace committee or health and safety representative;
  • to participate in the development and monitoring of a program for the prevention of workplace hazards that also provides for the health and safety education of employees; and
  • to participate in inquiries, studies, investigations and inspections as it considers necessary.

The policy committee has access to all government and employer reports, studies and tests relating to the health and safety of employees. It can request from the employer any information it considers necessary to identify existing or potential hazards with respect to materials, processes, equipment or activities in any of the employer's workplaces.

For more information, see Pamphlet 6A - Policy Health and Safety Committees.

Health and Safety Representatives

The Canada Labour Code requires employers under federal jurisdiction to appoint a health and safety representative for each workplace with fewer than 20 employees.

The health and safety representative is responsible for addressing workplace health and safety issues. The employees of the workplace who do not exercise managerial functions select, from among those employees, the person to be appointed health and safety representative.

If the employees are represented by a trade union, then the union selects the person to be appointed after consulting any employees who are not in the union.

The health and safety representative's duties include:

  • to consider and expeditiously dispose of health and safety complaints;
  • to ensure that adequate records of work accidents, health hazards and the disposition of health and safety complaints are kept, and regularly monitor this data;
  • to meet with the employer as necessary to address health and safety issues;
  • to participate in all inquiries, investigations, studies, and inspections pertaining to the health and safety of employees;
  • to cooperate with health and safety officers;
  • to participate in the implementation planning of changes that may affect occupational health and safety, including work processes and procedures, and, if there is no policy committee, participate in the implementation planning of those changes;
  • to inspect all or part of the workplace each month, so that every part of the workplace is inspected at least once each year; and
  • to participate in the development of health and safety policies and programs.

A health and safety representative may request from an employer any information that the representative considers necessary to identify existing or potential hazards in the workplace. The representative has full access to all government and employer reports, studies and tests relating to the health and safety of employees. Of course, the representative does not have access to the medical records of any individual except with the person's consent.

For more information, see Pamphlet 6C - Health and Safety Representatives.