Monthly Safety Tip: Occupational Health and Safety Act

By James Federico
Manager, Maintenance & Operations
Member, Joint Health and Safety Committee

Today we are re-launching the Health and Safety Tip of the Month, instead of focusing on nuts and bolts health and safety tips, we are going to start from the start and spend a few months talking about the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and the roles and responsibilities defined in the Act.

There is a great guide to the Act available online.  Full versions are available online or through the office of Environment, Health and Safety.

In basic terms, the act is structured around an Internal Responsibility System (IRS).  The IRS means everyone has a role to play in ensuring a healthy and safe workplace.  Supervisors are required to inform workers of hazards in the work they do.  Workers are required to notify their supervisors of health and safety hazards or contraventions of the Act.    If a worker has concerns with their working conditions, it is the duty of the supervisor to ensure that everything reasonable is being done to protect the safety of the worker.  Here at NC, the office of Environment, Health and Safety is an excellent resource for Workers and Supervisors looking to resolve concerns.  The JHSC exists to monitor the IRS, ensure it is functioning well, and take action if it is not.  We will explore some of the definitions of Worker and Supervisor in a future health and safety tip.

The Act applies to everyone who is being paid by Niagara College.  Recent case law in Ontario has clearly defined that an accident at a workplace, even an accident that does not involve a worker, will be investigated by the Ministry of Labour according to the strictures of the Act. 

As a Worker, the first thing you need to know about the Act is that it grants you three Rights:

  1. The right to know about hazards in their work and get information, supervision and instruction to protect their health and safety on the job.
  2. The right to participate in identifying and solving health and safety problems or through a health and safety representative or worker member of a joint health and safety committee.
  3. The right to refuse work that they believe is dangerous to their health and safety or that of any other worker in the workplace.

There is much more detail about these rights available online and we will explore them further in the future.  For now, consider how the IRS is reflected in these rights:  A worker has a Right to Know about hazards in their workplace, and a supervisor has a duty to inform them of the hazards.  A worker has a Right to Participate in identifying and solving health and safety problems, which is exemplified by the Joint Health and Safety committee.  A worker has a Right to Refuse work that they believe is dangerous, but they must follow a specific process to do so.  Keen readers can check out Section 43 of the Act to learn more about the refusal process.  Not so keen readers can wait for the next issue of The Health and Safety Tip of the Month.

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