Employers are legally required to set up and maintain an Occupational Health Committee (OHC) at workplaces with 10 or more workers. If your workplace has between 5-9 workers and is a prescribed workplace as described in the regulations, you are required to appoint an Occupational Health and Safety representative.
An OHC works with employers and workers to create a healthy and safe work environment by detecting Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) hazards and developing practical approaches to eliminate or control those hazards. OHCs are essential for bringing health and safety concerns into the open, focusing attention on them, and recommending ways to correct and resolve them.
Duties of Occupational Health Committees
Some of the duties include:
- Helping employers identify, eliminate, or control hazards;
- Making recommendations to the employer for improving workplace health and safety;
- Talking with workers about health and safety concerns and helping resolve the concerns;
- Receiving and distributing information, including OHS Division publications;
- Inspecting the workplace regularly;
- Investigating reportable incidents (meaning accidents and dangerous occurrences);
- Helping establish and promote health and safety programs, policies, and training;
- Investigating refusals to work; and
- Helping employers comply with OHS legislation.
An OHCs role is to give advice and make recommendations for correcting hazards to the employer.
When working with an OHC, employers are required to:
- Consult and co-operate with the OHC;
- Respond to concerns or recommendations raised by the OHC; and
- Inform the OHC or OHS representative, in writing, of the action(s) they have or will take to correct the hazard(s) or, if the employer has not corrected the hazard(s), the reasons for not taking action.
OHC Members and Chairs
The Saskatchewan Employment Act requires employers to set-up and maintain committees. An OHC must have between two and 12 members and at least half must be workers not involved in management.
Employers select the employer members; they cannot out-number the worker members. Each OHC must also have two co-chairs.
An OHC should have balanced representation of workers. For example, a hospital’s committee might include a doctor, a nurse, a custodian, and a security guard.
Trade union workplaces - OHC members must be appointed as required by the trade union’s constitution and its bylaws. If several unions are present, they must work out an agreement about how their committee members are chosen.
Non-union workplaces – workers must elect their committee members.
Each committee must have two co-chairs, employers select one and workers select the other. Co-chairs are selected at the first meeting. Co-chairs have the same rights and responsibilities as other members, including the right to call and chair meetings.
There must be a quorum at every committee meeting. A quorum means:
- Half of all the OHC members must be present;
- Half of all OHC members present must be workers; and
- At least one management member must be present.
Employers and workers should select “alternate” OHC members to ensure that there is a quorum at every OHC meeting.
How long are members on the OHC?
Members serve a three-year term and can serve more than one term. Ensure that the OHC has a balanced number of experienced and new members at all times.
How is an OHC set-up?
To set-up a committee, do the following:
- Meet with workers and management to explain what a committee is, its importance and how to elect members;
- Explain the process for selecting committee members;
- Select members;
- Ask the employer to select an employer co-chair;
- Hold the first meeting within two weeks of selecting the members and the employer co-chair; at the meeting select the worker co-chair.
Training for OHC Members
Employers must ensure committee co-chairs are trained in the duties and functions of an OHC members. Committee members may take five days of education leave each year for occupational health and safety training. Time spent at training courses must be treated as paid work time.
Please visit www.worksafesask.ca for information on the available training courses.