Employers have the power to set terms of reference for the
administration and operation of joint health and safety committees,
as long as those terms are not different than those in the Ontario
Occupational Health and Safety Act, an arbitration board has
The employer amended the terms of reference for its joint health
and safety committee. The union objected to some of the
changes, including: the committee would be a subcommittee of the
Employer's Senior Leadership Committee (SLC); the College's
Manager of Environmental Health and Safety Service would act in an
advisory capacity on the committee – albeit without a vote
- in addition to the four management members; the committee
would meet five times per year (the union wanted ten times); the
maximum duration of any meeting would be three hours; notice would
be required to be given for the appointment of new members; a
co-chair could serve for a maximum of two years; members would
be required to maintain confidentiality; and members
must maintain an activity log.
The arbitration board decided that it is the
employer's obligation under OHSA to establish and maintain the
joint health and safety committee. As a result, there
was nothing inherently improper in setting terms of reference
for the efficient operation of the committee and to ensure
compliance with the OHSA.
The arbitration board stated that the employer may not set
rules for the appointment of worker members of the committee that
are different than those in OHSA, unless those rules were agreed
to. This meant that the employer may not, without union
agreement, place restrictions not found in OHSA on the right
of the workers to choose their representatives. Also, the
employer may not impose term limits on the appointment of worker
co-chairs that are not present in the OHSA, unless agreed to.
Finally, any members properly chosen by the workers to sit on the
committee should not be prevented from sitting on the committee by
new rules that have not been agreed to by the committee.
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