WorkSafe BC (the Province's occupational health and safety
regulator) recently introduced policy guidelines which describe an
employers' responsibilities over its internal joint health and
safety committee. The guidelines also set out the factors that
WorkSafe may take into account when deciding whether when an
employer is exempt from the joint committee requirements set out
under the Workers Compensation Act.
The Act requires that every employee establish and maintain a
joint committee in each workplace with 20 or more employees. The
Act allows the Board to vary this requirement where an employer has
more than one workplace. Unfortunately, the Act does not set out
the factors that the Board must or could consider when deciding
whether a variation should be made. The Act also does not spell out
the employer's duties or responsibilities with respect to the
joint committee and the exercise of their duties in ensuring a safe
The new guidelines state that the employer must ensure that:
the joint committee is meeting its obligations under the Act in
actively identifying potential health and safety concerns;
the joint committee has established rules and procedures for
its performance of its duties and functions; and
the joint committee is meeting at least once per month.
The message from WorkSafe is that employers must not only ensure
that joint committees are created and maintained, they must
vigilantly monitor their joint committees activities and ensure
they are carrying out their statutorily required duties.
With respect to a variation of structure, an employer may wish
to vary the requirement where, for example, it has a number of
workplaces but prefers to have one joint committee only, or where
the employer has different workforces with different health and
safety issues across a number of workplaces. The guidelines set out
the requirements for a variation application, including injury
statistics and hazard ratings and the employer's rationale for
its new proposed structure. The guidelines spell out the factors
that the Board must consider in granting the variance, which
include: the employer's overall health and safety program and
safety history; the nature or makeup of the workplace; the
relationship between workers at various workplaces; and the
practicality of communications between workers and members of the
WorkSafe BC is recognizing that a "one size fits all"
approach is not the best way to ensure compliance with the Act,
particularly in today's complex and multi-faceted workplaces.
The guidelines give employers flexibility to tailor their joint
committee structures in ways that best meet their needs and the
needs of their workers.
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